The importance of market research: part 1

Gathering data via market research is a highly recommended practice for any business.

Whether you’re a startup or a multinational corporation, understanding consumer behaviour, market trends, and your competitors, will enable you to establish or strengthen your business through fulfilling your niche.

Creating a marketing campaign based on intelligent data will help to minimise risk - allowing you to deliver products and services which are of exceptional value to your customers.


Market research has made huge headway since the 1999 Whiskas advert was forced to include the famous line: "eight out of ten owners who expressed a preference said their cat prefers it". Since then, it seems as if we are continually being asked to rate products or services, whether in a shop, online, or at the end of a phone call.  

Long before we swapped the Encyclopedia Britannica for Google, sourcing data research into sector-specific trades and associations from companies like Key Note and Mintel was the way forward. These records, which track back over 30 years, are held at the British Library’s reading rooms, and hold information on:

  • Histories of companies and brands
  • Changes in trends of products and services
  • Changes in lifestyle and consumer behaviour

We have seen the way marketing is changing through online video, social media and personalisation, but the core ethos of : ‘building brands to create new business to drive business growth and value,’ remains the same.

Market research follows the same route. The world we now live in is very different to the one we lived in 10 years ago, but the need to understand consumer patterns remains as vital as ever.

Luckily, gathering the opinions of consumers up and down the country isn’t totally reliant on groups of thick skinned students hanging around shopping centres, clasping questionnaires on clipboards. Nowadays, market research is usually conducted in the following ways:

Online surveys

The internet is awash with companies offering cash for online surveys, and the prospective audience participation is huge. It’s a simple process: participants are given a list of questions regarding the product or service and the answers are collated. Participants are recruited through specific criteria, and with the reward incentives, there is no shortage of people to choose from.

Focus Groups

This method is similar to an online survey but is carried out face-to-face in an interactive group setting. The carefully selected candidates, who are also offered a cash payment, meet and discuss a product or service and answer a selection of questions set by the market research company.

Mystery Shopping

Still very much alive and well is the ‘secret shopper’, whose role it is to purchase a product or ask about a service and give feedback on the experience, both online and in-person.

Market research through social media

Our post wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of social media usage as a cost-effective method of studying consumer and brand behaviours. Social media not only provides a front row seat to witness consumer thinking, but it also represents the perfect opportunity to discover hidden trends via probing questions. By using Twitter’s free analytical tools, gathering insightful, advantageous information couldn’t be easier.   

In our next post we will take an in-depth look at social media data tracking and list the most effective questions for primary market research.

Photos by SMI Eye Tracking & Rachel Hofton