One of the most important skills for product managers, brand managers, and anyone involved in marketing is market research (MR). To wow customers and out-maneuver competitors it is critical to understand what your customers need, how they use your products, why they don’t buy competitor products, etc. In addition, you need to understand the same information about your competitor customers. To uncover these insights, you need to conduct both qualitative and quantitative MR.
Foundational MR skills can be learned from books, videos, or classes. However, like any other skill, you need to practice in the real world. You need to get out of the office and interview consumers. You need to go to retail stores and observe consumer behavior. You need to shadow experienced researchers and learn how they do it. It is also critical to practice writing questionnaires for both qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys. Writing and design questionnaires are an art form and takes a lot of practice, failure, and continuous improvement.
No matter what type of MR you use, there are a several best practices you need to keep in mind. It is important to use these best practices to ensure strong response rates and keep participants engaged so they will participate in future MR studies. Treat your participants like friends and they will agree to future research requests.
The following best practices are from the recent Participant Engagement – How to improve the online survey user experience guide compiled by Global Research Business Network. You can access this excellent guide at http://grbnnews.com/special-report-improving-the-online-survey-user-experience/.
Keep the questions simple and short, and use every day terminology.
Design the questionnaire so it works on mobile devices
Keep screeners as short as possible
Avoid using large tables or matrixes
Provide incentives that align with the participants’ effort
Keep surveys to a maximum of 10 minutes – if you have to go longer, be honest about how long it will take to complete
In addition to best practices, use metrics to ensure you achieve what you want. Keep your MR goal in perspective by asking “Why and now what?”. Remind your team why are you conducting the research and once you compile the data, what are you going to do with it.
Create a survey people enjoy taking. Use creativity to keep participants engaged (e.g., gamification, animation, videos). Develop a MR study which participants feel their responses are valued and are being used to improve business, products, etc.
When the research is completed, create a compelling story to share insights with team members. Don’t just gather data to sell your products. Think of MR as an additional touch-point with your customers; just like advertising, customer service, packaging, social media, etc.
Too often teams make decisions based on guesses or relying on intuition or experience. It is vital to adopt a data-driven, evidence-based decision-making culture. The importance of “going to the spot” and seeing how products are used, how consumers behave in the “real world”, and struggles they encounter will provide insights for innovation.
Staring at data can only provide a limited understanding of consumer behavior. Using qualitative MR to gather deep insights and quantitative MR to identify patterns leveraging the strength of statistics will help you create competitive advantages and separate yourself from your competitors. Learn, practice, and implement MR tools and techniques for long-term growth.