A wide variety of research methods are used to collect data for marketing purposes. The different types of market research will vary depending on the objective of the study. Some forms of research focus on collecting data about current consumer behavior or current consumer preferences regarding one or more product-market combinations, while other forms of marketing research study new products that have not yet been sold to consumers.

Market research is the primary tool used to gauge long-term customer interest in a particular product or service. It is conducted in order to further the company’s goals, whether for an individual product or to line up future ideas. Market research can be done in many ways, including surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews.


With concise and straightforward questionnaires, you can analyze a sample group that represents your target market. The larger the sample, the more reliable your results will be.

  • In-person surveys are one-on-one interviews typically conducted in high-traffic locations such as shopping malls. They allow you to present people with samples of products, packaging, or advertising and gather immediate feedback. In-person surveys can generate response rates of more than 90 percent, but they are costly. With the time and labor involved, the tab for an in-person survey can run as high as $100 per interview.
  • Telephone surveys are less expensive than in-person surveys, but costlier than mail. However, due to consumer resistance to relentless telemarketing, convincing people to participate in phone surveys has grown increasingly difficult. Telephone surveys generally yield response rates of 50 to 60 percent.
  • Mail surveys are a relatively inexpensive way to reach a broad audience. They’re much cheaper than in-person and phone surveys, but they only generate response rates of 3 percent to 15 percent. Despite the low return, mail surveys remain a cost-effective choice for small businesses.
  • Online surveys usually generate unpredictable response rates and unreliable data, because you have no control over the pool of respondents. But an online survey is a simple, inexpensive way to collect anecdotal evidence and gather customer opinions and preferences.

Social media listening

Social media has reached a point where it is seamlessly integrated into our lives. And because it is a digital extension of ourselves, people freely express their opinions, thoughts, and hot takes on social media.

Because people share so much content on social media and the sharing is so instant, social media is a treasure trove for market research. There is plenty of data to tap into and dissect.

By using a social listening tool, like Consumer Research, researchers are able to identify topics of their interest, then analyze relevant social posts. For example, they can track brand mentions and what consumers are saying about the products owned by that brand.

Social media listening democratizes insights, and is especially useful for market research because of the vast amount of unfiltered information available. Because it’s unprompted, you can be fairly sure that what’s shared is an accurate account of what the person really cares about and thinks (as opposed to them being given a subject to dwell on in the presence of a researcher).

 Focus groups

 In focus groups, a moderator uses a scripted series of questions or topics to lead a discussion among a group of people. These sessions take place at neutral locations, usually at facilities with videotaping equipment and an observation room with one-way mirrors. A focus group usually lasts one to two hours, and it takes at least three groups to get balanced results.

 Personal interviews 

Like focus groups, personal interviews include unstructured, open-ended questions. They usually last for about an hour and are typically recorded.

Focus groups and personal interviews provide more subjective data than surveys. The results are not statistically reliable, which means that they usually don’t represent a large enough segment of the population. Nevertheless, focus groups and interviews yield valuable insights into customer attitudes and are excellent ways to uncover issues related to new products or service development

Experiments and field trials

Field experiments are conducted in the participants’ environment. They rely on the independent variable and the dependent variable – the researcher controls the independent variable in order to test its impact on the dependent variable. The key here is to try and establish whether there is causality going on.

For example, take Hofling’s experiment that tested obedience, conducted in a hospital setting. The point was to test if nurses followed authority figures (doctors) if the authority figures’ rules violated standards (this. The dependent variable being the nurses, the independent variable being a fake doctor calling up and ordering the nurses to administer treatment.

According to Simply Psychology, there are key strengths and limitations to this method. There assessment reads:

  • Strength: Behavior in a field experiment is more likely to reflect real life because of its natural setting, i.e. higher ecological validity than a lab experiment.
  • Strength: There is less likelihood of demand characteristics affecting the results, as participants may not know they are being studied. This occurs when the study is covert.
  • Limitation: There is less control over extraneous variables that might bias the results. This makes it difficult for another researcher to replicate the study in exactly the same way.

There are also massive ethical implications for these kinds of experiments, and experiments in general (especially if people are unaware of their involvement). Don’t take this lightly and be sure to read up on the all the guidelines that apply to the region where you’re based.


Observational market research is a qualitative research method where the researcher observes their subjects in a natural or controlled environment. This method is much like being a fly on the wall, but the fly takes notes and analyzes them later. In observational market research, subjects are likely to behave naturally, which reveals their true selves. They are not under much pressure. Although if they’re aware of the observation, they can act differently.

This type of research applies well to retail, where the researcher can observe shoppers’ behavior by day of week, by season, when there are discounts offered, and more. However, observational research can be time-consuming and researchers have no control over the environments they research.

Competitive analysis

Competitive analysis is a highly strategic and specific form of market research, in which the researcher analyzes their company’s competitors. It is critical to see how your brand stacks up to rivals. Competitive analysis starts by defining the product, service, or brand, and market segment. There are different topics to compare your firm with your competitors.

It could be from a marketing perspective: content produced, SEO structure, PR coverage, and social media presence and engagement. It can also be from a product perspective: types of offerings, pricing structure. SWOT analysis is key, assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Public domain data

The internet is a wondrous place. For those strapped for resources, or those simply seeking to support their research with some more data, public data exists. With more and more data produced every year, the question about access and curation becomes increasingly prominent – that’s why researchers and librarians are keen on open data.

There are plenty of different types of open data that are useful for market research: government databases, polling data, “fact tanks” like Pew Research Center, and more. Furthermore, APIs grant developers programmatic access to applications. A lot of this data is free, which is a real bonus.

Buy research

Money can’t buy everything, but it can buy research. Subscriptions exist for those who want to buy relevant industry and research reports. Sites like Euromonitor, Mintel, and BCC Research host a litany of reports for purchase, oftentimes with the option of a single user license or a subscription.

This can be a massive time saver, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re getting from the off. You’ll also get all your data in a format that makes sense, saving you effort in cleaning and organizing.

Analyze sales data

Sales data is like a puzzle piece that can help reveal the full picture of market research insights. Essentially, it indicates the results. Paired with other market research data, sales data helps researchers gain a better picture of action and consequence. It’s also important for understanding your customers, their buying habits, and how these are changing over time.

Obviously this will be limited to customers, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Nevertheless, the value of this data should not be underestimated. If you’re not already tracking customer data, there’s no time like the present.


The most common type of market research is that which seeks to better understand consumers’ preferences for products or their personal characteristics. Market research of this kind is often used to plan future merchandise categories, new product lines, or product improvements.

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