The Most Commonly Used Market Research Methods

The market research industry, perhaps more than any other, has been hugely influenced by the electronic revolution of the last decade. At the turn of the new millennium, face-to-face interviewing was by far the most important data collection technique, accounting for 40 to 50% of all data collection methods by value. Telephone interviewing accounted for just over a fifth of the spend on market research data collection. In just 10 years, online research has grown from nowhere to dominate the data collection methods and undoubtedly it will increase, most probably taking 50% of the value of data collection by the year 2015. In the main, these online interviews are carried out through market research panels – groups of individuals who have opted in to take part in market research surveys and who receive small rewards for doing so.

Global Market Research Interviewing Methods By Value

The Most Commonly Used Market Research Methods image Capture1The Most Commonly Used Market Research Methods

The reasons for these changes are fairly obvious. Online research is quick and cheap compared to face to face and the telephone.  It also has the advantage of eliminating interviewer bias, which can be difficult to account for in an administered interview.

However, cheaper and faster doesn’t necessarily mean better and this raises the question as to the quality of online research. Everything depends on the nature of the respondent audience and the questions that they are being asked. It is no good looking amongst a panel company for needles in haystacks.  Panels work best when both the subject and the audience are broad.  There will be a level at which the penetration of online research can go no further. There will always be some requirement for a rapport with respondents that comes from personal engagement.

Online surveys, telephone and face-to-face interviews are, of course, vital components of any researcher’s toolkit.  However, as with all traditional methods, customer opinion is gathered after the event and thus a customer is already satisfied or dissatisfied.  Social media monitoring mines data ‘of the moment’.  This new source of data is growing at an exponential rate. It is real-time information that allows businesses to watch customer trends and behaviours.

The things that people talk about on twitter, blogs and Facebook can be classified as positive and negative comment. Algorithms can automatically classify comments into different “sentiments” which can be tracked to see if there is anything that needs a quick reaction. Negative comment can be quickly headed off with some appropriate PR. Positive comment could be used to determine what people are enjoying about a product or service and ensure that they get more of it. Tapping into social media provides an instant pulse which shows the health of a brand. It doesn’t give all the answers but it does provide clues which cost very little to collect and which are current.

We have to be careful of assuming that many market research questions can be answered by an analysis of social media.  It is largely made up of banal snippets of conversations and therefore we have to accept that most of it is trivial or even useless. Furthermore, the references that people make to different brands may be indiscriminate or confused.

There is no doubt that the methods we use for market research data collection will always be subject to change. Thanks to Paul Haguefor helping with this research. He is a Founder and Director of B2B International, and author of a number of text books on marketing and market research.

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