7 Types of Market Research and How to Determine the Right Ones for You

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7 Types of Market Research and How to Determine the Right Ones for You

“We do no market research.” You might think this is a quote from the CEO of a business that failed or a brand that didn’t want to grow. But it’s actually a statement that Steve Jobs, the founder and one-time CEO of Apple, Inc., made in a 2008 interview.

Did Apple, under Jobs, really eschew market research? Not exactly. Jobs never held focus groups or employed market researchers, but that’s because Jobs and his team were the source of primary market research for Apple. For example, Jobs and his team liked music and wanted a way to carry their whole music libraries around with them. They believed if they wanted to do that, so would Apple’s consumers. They were right, as the massive popularity of iTunes and iPods resoundingly proved.

Even Jobs saw some major failures in the marketplace, though — like the Apple Lisa. (Could a better marketing strategy have helped the Lisa succeed? Some think so.) And the truth is, for most brands today, a successful marketing approach hinges on a robust market research program. 

What types of market research methods are commonly used? Which ones, or which combination of approaches, is best for your needs? To help you decide, we’ll take a comprehensive look at seven forms of marketing research in this post. But let’s begin with a quick overview of what marketing research is and why it is valuable for companies to use in their decision-making.

Market Research and Business Decision-Making

Market research blends insights into consumer behavior, market dynamics, and economic trends using first, second, and third-party data to provide a reliable method that companies can use to prove a concept for or improve a product or service. 

The data derived from all types of market research can be used throughout an organization for a wide range of purposes beyond obvious areas like marketing and advertising and product development and innovation. Many businesses also use market research to inform their sales strategies, financial planning, risk mitigation approaches, and their decision-making around how to allocate resources or expand into new markets, for example.                                                                                                                                                       

While you’ll never know going into a marketing research exercise exactly what you will learn, one thing is certain: It can only benefit your business to take a data-driven approach to understanding who and where your target audience is and what they want and need. 

With that in mind, let’s dive into seven types of market research, starting with primary research.

1. Primary Research

Think of primary market research as information that comes straight from the horse’s mouth — or the voice of the customer. This information is considered “original” data, as opposed to secondary research, which we discuss later in this post.

Purpose and Importance

This type of research is conducted to address a particular research question or objective and involves the firsthand collection of information tailored to meet the unique needs of a study.

Primary research, often referred to as field research, is crucial for gaining insights directly from your target audience, ensuring data accuracy, and generating unique and relevant findings. 

Sources for Data Collection

You can collect primary research through traditional methods like focus groups, customer questionnaires or surveys, and field trials of new products and services. Direct one-on-one interviews with customers or consumers in your target audience is another source for primary research.

Social media “listening” can equip you with primary market research data, too. It involves using specialized technology tools to analyze user comments and discussions on social media platforms to understand public sentiment, opinions, and trends related to a particular topic or brand. 

You can also proactively collect primary research data by deploying a conversation intelligence platform, such as Invoca, to capture, record, and transcribe every phone call between your company and its customers or targets. The information from these call recordings and transcriptions can be analyzed, grouped as data, and used just like any other primary research source. 

When to Use Primary Research

Primary data helps businesses investigate and assess new markets. It can also be useful in product development and to understand consumer behavior.

You can use insights from primary research to measure customer satisfaction and brand perception, test new marketing strategies, conduct competitor analysis, identify market trends that might affect your business or product, and validate marketing or sales hypotheses.

2. Secondary Research

Unlike primary research, or original data, secondary research is information that has been collected by someone else for purposes other than your current research. For example, a company may buy research from a third party or employ analysts to find relevant data.

Purpose and Importance

Secondary research is valuable for businesses that lack the time or resources to conduct a full primary research program. Through this type of research, you can gather insights, statistics, and background information to complement or provide additional context to your primary marketing research methods. 

Sources for Data Collection

Examples of secondary research sources include:

  • Academic and industry journals or reports
  • Surveys and reports published by government agencies such as the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis
  • Third-party market research analysts such as Mintel and Fortune Business Insights

Online databases such as Statista, IBISWorld, and Euromonitor International Passport also provide industry-based market research data.

When to Use Secondary Research

You can use secondary research to support primary research and identify trends. It can also serve as background research to help you develop a better picture of your market and customer. 

Secondary research can be a source of competitive analysis as well. And it can provide you with valuable insight into regulations, industry policies, and customer behavior.

3. Qualitative Research

Another form of marketing research is qualitative research. This research can give you even deeper insights into customer behavior, such as understanding buyer motivations. As such, a qualitative survey focuses on capturing rich narratives rather than numerical data.

Purpose and Importance

Qualitative research should deliver a nuanced understanding of buyer behaviors, attitudes, and experiences and provide greater context to quantitative data (described in the next section). 

A good example of qualitative research is conversation intelligence. Invoca’s platform collects 100% of data from phone calls and analyzes that data quickly at scale to uncover hidden insights and trends that provide added context to quantitative data. 

Sources for Data Collection

In addition to conversation intelligence, you can use in-depth interviews, focus groups, case studies, ethnographic studies, and analysis of social media content to gather data for qualitative research.

When to Use Qualitative Research

When you need to go deep on marketing research to determine what motivates consumers or if you need cultural insights into your buyers, conducting qualitative research can help. A qualitative survey can also help you to understand new and emerging market topics. And it can compensate for small sample sizes by providing a greater contextual understanding of data.

4. Quantitative Research

Quantitative research runs on numerical data. It is best to conduct this research with large, statistically relevant samples so that patterns, relationships, and trends can be detected and extrapolated from the data and applied to a wider audience.

Purpose and Importance

The purpose of quantitative research is to provide statistical insights and objective metrics that you can use to draw conclusions and make predictions. It’s essential for making data-driven decisions, validating hypotheses, and providing a broader understanding of trends and patterns.

Sources for Data Collection

Quantitative data is collected via numbers-based surveys and experiments, as well as statistical analysis and data mining.

When to Use Quantitative Research

You can use quantitative research to measure trends and draw statistical inferences. Testing hypotheses, benchmarking, or gaining predictive insights are other use cases. 

Since it works best with large samples, quantitative data can help determine the generalizability of data, or the measure of how useful or applicable the data is for a broad audience.

5. Descriptive Research

Descriptive research is a hybrid research method that embodies elements of both quantitative and qualitative research. 

Purpose and Importance

The purpose of descriptive research, as its name implies, is to provide a detailed description of a phenomenon or population, such as a target audience. This detail allows those using this research method to understand the “what” and “how” of a research subject. 

Descriptive research can help you to summarize and visualize data, identify trends, and gain a basic understanding of an issue.

Sources for Data Collection

You can gather descriptive research via surveys, case studies, observational studies, and content analysis, including social media and web resources. 

When to Use Descriptive Research

Descriptive research can be a basis for initial data collection and preliminary analysis, and it can help you to establish baselines for market research projects. You can also use this information to identify patterns in consumer behavior and for market segmentation.

6. Exploratory Research

Exploratory research is a primary market research method that can be qualitative and quantitative in nature. Data researchers use this method to investigate a topic or problem in an open-ended manner to gain a deeper understanding of the issue. 

Purpose and Importance

This method can help you generate hypotheses to inform market research projects. You can use it to identify relationships or trends in the data and uncover insights to guide more in-depth studies. Exploratory research can also help to spark new, outside-the-box ideas.

Sources for Data Collection

Exploratory research uses basic primary market research tools such as focus groups and in-depth interviews, as well as observations. Conversation intelligence solutions like Invoca’s Signal AI Discovery can be useful for exploratory research. They can help you to identify patterns and trends, as well as new insights, in phone calls (and do it at scale). 

For example, say that an analysis of calls to a dental office finds that 60% of callers have mentioned the signal (keyword) “teeth whitening.” The dental practice using conversation intelligence for exploratory research may want to act on that insight by not only adapting its marketing strategy but also digging deeper into research about new teeth-whitening procedures and options it can offer its customers

When to Use Exploratory Research

Exploratory research is often used when there is little existing information on a topic. You can use it to conduct initial research, develop hypotheses, define issues, and more. Exploratory research is also useful as a brainstorming tool.

7. Market and Customer Analysis

Market and customer analysis is a method in marketing research to examine market trends, customer behaviors, preferences, and needs.  

Purpose and Importance

Market and customer analysis informs business strategy by providing data-driven insights into target audiences. It can help you identify opportunities based on micro and macro market trends. This research method can provide valuable insight you can use to create marketing campaigns tailored to a specific audience and to improve your products and services. 

Sources for Data Collection

Questionnaires and surveys, focus groups, data segmentation, competitive analysis, and trend analysis can all be sources of data for market and customer analysis. 

Conversation intelligence is another valuable tool for this research method because it allows you to identify trends and patterns at scale from a data-rich resource: phone conversations.

When to Use Market and Customer Analysis

This marketing research method can inform new product development and help you assess the competitive landscape. You can also use this approach as part of your efforts to:

  • Define a target market
  • Perform market segmentation
  • Gauge marketing campaign effectiveness
  • Map the customer journey

Choosing the Right Type of Market Research

Now that you’ve reviewed seven types of market research, how do you decide which method or methods to use for your next marketing research project? These actions can help guide you to the right answer:

  • Define your research objectives — what do you want to achieve?
  • Identify the market research questions you want to answer.
  • Review what existing knowledge you already have about a topic or problem.
  • Assess available resources — where will you collect your data from?

You’ll also need to align the right tools to conduct market research. Platforms for social media listening and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solutions for collecting and analyzing conversation intelligence at scale are two examples of tools you may want to employ, depending on the types of market research you want to undertake.

Tailor Your Market Research with Invoca

Data-driven marketing trends deliver better results for marketers. That’s a fact. And that’s why it is critical for marketers to use all types of market research at their disposal to make informed decisions. 

Here’s another fact: Despite the rise in online communication, most consumers still prefer to reach out to companies with a phone call. That includes people who need to make major purchasing decisions that are complex, expensive, or both. They seek reassurance that they are making the right decision, and they prefer to get that reassurance from an informed and helpful person on the other end of the line. 

See How Invoca’s Voice of Customer Analytics Can Improve Your Marketing ROI

Invoca’s conversation intelligence analysis unlocks valuable data collection from this target market by recording and analyzing every phone call in real time and at scale. The solution uses AI to identify patterns and trends that can help you take your marketing campaigns to new heights. 

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you capture deep insights for marketing research? Check out these resources:

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