Customer Research: Why You Need It and How To Do It

4 min read · 1 month ago


Many small businesses overlook the value of customer research. While learning about your audience can be a time-consuming process, there are many benefits. Plus, there are ways to simplify the process. This article covers both why you need to do customer research and how.

Customer research has value in many business areas. Understanding customers better can help improve customer satisfaction and drive customer retention. With insights into your audience, you can improve products or services and identify areas that need more investment. Customer research is key to gaining the data required to inform business decisions.

“Successful marketers are 242% more likely to conduct audience research at least once every quarter,” according to a CoSchedule study.


To get started with customer research, you can take several different approaches. These might include:

  • Perform surveys or interviews
  • Mine customer reviews
  • Analyze social media
  • Review blog comments
  • Leverage website analytics
  • Research your competition
  • Buy research and data

Perform Surveys or Interviews

Customer surveys are the most obvious way to research your audience. There are many ways to solicit consumer input:

  • Customer polls on social media channels
  • Send online surveys after purchases or service appointments 
  • Ask for feedback after interactions with customer service 
  • Post pop-up questions on your business website
  • Develop a blog post encouraging your audience to share their opinions
  • Reach out to past and canceled customers for feedback

Offering a small incentive for the customer to share their insights can be beneficial to your response rate. University of Michigan research found incentives increase response rates on any sort of survey

Then, you can take the survey responses to another level by asking respondents to participate in customer interviews. Or, you might interview loyal customers who have been with your brand a long time to learn what they like best, want more of, and wish you would change.

Mine Customer Reviews

Reviewing what your customers say about your business on Yahoo!, Google, Yelp, or other sites is an easy way to perform consumer research. This online customer research gives the entrepreneur access to qualitative data without making the same effort as polling, surveys, and interviews.

The feedback is already available, published on local directories or other business websites. Looking over Amazon reviews and forums such as Reddit, Product Hunt, or review-based websites such as Trust Radius can help you improve your products and marketing campaigns.


Analyze Social Media

Cropped image of businesswoman using tablet computer in office

Social media is probably a big part of your business marketing strategy. Don’t stop at setting up the posts and liking and retweeting other people’s social. Use the digital dashboards that social platforms provide to glean more about your audience


You can gather quantitative and qualitative data (or both). You might look at:

  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Mention volume
  • Share of voice
  • Reach
  • Followers
  • Subscribers
  • Sentiment
  • Context
  • Common Themes

Review Blog Comments

Logging in to look at the blog comments on your website is simple customer research. If people are commenting about your products or services, you could gather insight into new features they like or want. 

Content marketing is about creating content that your consumer wants to read and can use. But if you’re just writing what you want, you’ll be wasting time and effort on content that isn’t meeting your audience’s needs. Reviewing blog comments can help you see where you need to focus more while also helping to shape your buyer persona profiles.

This data mining strategy can extend to browsing blog comments on competitor and industry sites. This approach can help you identify future trends and get ahead of the market.


Leverage Website Analytics

There are many analytic tools available to you via your business website. Depending on your website hosting service and the features it offers, you may be able to see:

  • Heat maps
  • Click tracking
  • Scroll mapping
  • User-recorded sessions

These website analytics help you see what the visitors do on your site, what stumbling blocks they encounter, and where they spend most of their time. 

Google also helps you measure audience behavior with its data analytics. Add keyword research to your website analytics. Knowing how people are finding your site can help you get to know what the consumer wants. You can also learn your bounce rate and time on page to find areas of improvement. 


Research Your Competition

Man doing presentation, using tablet & screen

It may not immediately occur to you to research your competitors to better understand your consumer. But understanding your competitor can help you get to know your audience. Consider the following:

  • Doing keyword research to determine your competitors’ ranking can help you identify what consumers are looking for, pain points, and challenges.
  • Questions people ask on the competitors’ blogs or social media may help you find new business opportunities.
  • Knowing features people are raving about on your competitors’ business websites or social channels can direct you into new product development directions.

Buy Research and Data

Customer research can be time-consuming and complicated. One way to streamline this effort? Pay research firms to dig up and delve into the data for you. Some consultancies make market research and reporting their business. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You simply need to pay the fee for the work of someone better equipped to do audience research. 

Joining industry associations is another good way to get access to useful research and data for your market area. The fee for joining that association is likely to be lower than what you would pay to a market researcher. You can also pay subscription fees to trade publications which often provide current research and data too.

Now that you understand the benefits and have ideas on getting started, grow your business through customer research. Knowing your consumer, online and offline, can make a big difference to your marketing campaigns, website design, product development, customer service, and more.