What is marketing research? This might just be the most asked question in relation to market research on the internet today. It is also a question that has a deceptively complex answer depending on: who you’re asking the question to, who you are, and what you’re going to do with this information afterwards.
This is because everyone’s view of market research is distorted based on their profession, biased due to how they understand market research and what they use market research for.
Defining Market Research
The OED, as an objective observer, defines market research as simply “the action or activity of gathering information about consumers’ needs and preferences.”
At it’s most basic level, this definition is true for market research. But the view of market research differs depending on what you use it for. Most of us will know market research only in the sense of what it can do for us, how it will support us or make life easier or point us in the right direction.
Market Research in Sales
Market research, if used well, is an integral part of marketing and sales strategies. With the two departments intrinsically linked, there are overlaps in what data is used and how, leading to a similar view of market research within both departments. Both Sales and Marketing departments use market research to pick up data on the customer journey, and use the data generated to actively make the customer interactions a little more personalised in each department, which works to grow the business through efficiency and effectiveness. An article from McKinsey explores this concept for the sales department very well, however, the basics of this is that market research and data analytics radically improves lead generation, better matches people to deals, and maximises customer lifetime value.
The best way to use this data is to embed it into a sales workflow, to ensure insights are available at the time they are most valuable, which maximises the chance of growing customer-base. This data can also lend itself to competitor analytics, which reveal how a brand’s competitors are innovating within their industry, and even to see if another market is worth entering before taking that ever fateful leap. Ennera is a great example of a company having to make a tough decision in this scenario; the Spanish energy supplier was looking to enter the UK energy market, but wanted to know for sure that they would be successful in their endeavour before moving into the UK.
The data can unveil unexpected opportunities and unmet needs that businesses can take advantage of. Social media intelligence techniques, online forums, and other online public spaces and research platforms can be used to gather essential insights into the concerns, queries, and comments regarding any features on an existing product/service that could be improved or could be featured into another new service entirely thus meeting that unmet need.
Market Research in Marketing
Marketing departments also use data to enhance customer experiences when it comes to interactions and brand positioning. Every interaction needs to be precise; precise with its content and with its delivery. When marketing teams conduct marketing research, it is with the consumer experience in mind, especially when it comes to brand positioning and repositioning.
While ‘marketing research’ is commonly regarded as synonymous with ‘market research’, this is another interpretation of what ‘marketing research’ is. It allows particularly burning questions to be answered within the marketing department, such as: how do consumers see our brand? How do we want them to see us? Is there a perception gap between those two states? How do we close that gap so that our business can flourish?
Marketing, advertisement, and other such campaigns can be influenced by market research in all stages from design to implementation and evaluation. Our recent case study on Specsavers is a shining example of this, as they conducted a quantitative research study which directly influenced the formation of the new iteration of their ‘Don’t Lose the Picture’ eye health campaign. They used surveys to continuously gather insights and concept test their ideas to make sure they were maintaining a very important balance: emotional impact and clinical accuracy.
This campaign is a good example of structured insight-led research, with ad-hoc tasks built in for further insights, which is a research technique that allows the campaign to be honed into its most effective form for the brand’s specific unique audience. For more information on Specsavers research, take a look at our case study.
Market Research in Development
Development in all forms, no matter if it is Business, Technology, or New Product, can always be enhanced by or indeed is a force that enhances market research. So the view of market research within this context is in the view of enhancement; allowing a brand to take a good look at themselves and their offering through market research and providing opportunities for improvement.
Our Specsavers case study is, again, a great example of a business using insight to influence New Product Development. Not many consumers know just how much effort goes into the tiniest detail of product production, from the intricacies of product design to the naming of the products, there is so much research that is used to influence and enhance every part of the final product.
In terms of product development, Specsavers used research to see how they should name their products, which names their customers felt matched the products they were putting the final touches on before they were released.
Business development is just as important as product development, and market research is essential to enhancing this. From the development of the business as a whole to the improvement and updating of policies and procedures, there are many facets of market research which can help identify many areas of improvement from the consumers’ perspective.
Employees and consumers alike can identify outdated, useless, or inaccurate policies, and report them through various channels (social media, internal surveys or focus groups, etc.). Social media intelligence for one, is already used for this purpose as can be seen by JetBlue’s actions within this whitepaper.
Technology development again will have a slightly different view of market research as it is an area that can be influenced by market research, but it also is one of the main influences of innovation within market research, providing the best new research techniques for businesses to use when needed. With out technology development, we wouldn’t have innovative research methods like biometric methods and wearable research.
The Many Faces of Market Research
I haven’t the word count to cover every face and facet of market research, but there is one very important one that I have yet to mention: market research in the boardroom. The boardroom has possibly the closest perception of market research that matches the definition outlined above, however this only refers to how they can use the insights to make important informed decisions that affect the business at all levels.
Really, there are many faces of market research as you can see, but they all convey one very key piece of reassuring information that answers our all-important introductory question: marketing research is the key to success.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.