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Market research helps you to understand your target audience. Recent reports suggest that 55% of marketers did not feel confident that their organization understood the consumer journey. Research is a very important tool and resource that can help you understand your customers.
This enables you to explain to the rest of the organization how customers behave and how consumers view your brand. This is more than just hearsay. You can back it up with hard facts.
Many different methods are available for conducting market research and allowing you to understand your target audience. They not only enable you to collect data, but also analyze it as well.
You also need to think about resourcing and outsourcing. You can choose to do the research yourself, or you may want to outsource to a specialist research organization. The complexity of the methodology you're using will influence whether you want to outsource it or do it internally.
There has been a shift from "How do you think you will behave?" to "I know how you behaved?" In the past, you might have held focus groups to find out what people are doing and whether they'd buy your products.
Now, you can use tools and methods to observe exactly what consumers are doing.
One method is eye tracking. You can observe how someone walks through a retail environment or walks through a supermarket, how they examine products on the shelf, and how long they spend looking at parts of a packaging or a certain shelf. It's a completely different tool to then asking them in a survey or group, "What do you think you will do?"
Many online tools are available, such as virtual shopping and online collaboration tools. These bring together communities of consumers and ask them questions in order to do market research. More and more brands are doing this. And often, they're doing it with people who are real brand advocates because those people are really helping inform the key parts of the customer journey. They can highlight issues that marketers may have missed or the key pain points because these are people that are really paying attention to your brand. They feel really strongly about the brand and want the brand to succeed.
Brands are also using social media to conduct market research. And as social media continues to evolve and launch new tools, marketers can use different methods to collect information and observe how people are behaving.
Market research enables marketers to curate the optimal media mix. Data can help drive decisions around where you spend your marketing dollars. By doing marketing research, you can understand what media your consumers are consuming. This then enables you to then to optimizing your media mix within your marketing plan.
This helps you distinguish between what you think the ideal mix and what the ideal mix really is. You can find out the perfect mix for your target audience and for your target segments.
Consider this example. Marketers might think they should be spending 14% on traditional marketing. But they need to do market research to validate that. Perhaps it should be a far larger spend. It's very easy for marketers to think that they know all the answers based on previous experience. However, the world continues to change, and marketers need to keep on conducting research and keep on top of how consumers are behaving. Just because one campaign works by having a certain marketing mix doesn't necessarily mean your next campaign in six months will behave the same way. Things change and consumers change and channels change.
With market research, there are two different main types of research that we can conduct.
The first one is quantitative. There are four basic types of quantitative research.
The most basic element of quantitative research is a simple survey. This is something we're all used to. We've probably all carried out at least one survey in our past or filled out a survey, asking questions of customers.
Maybe it uses a scale of 1 to 10, or maybe it's tick boxes. Quantitative research is less about free-form answers.
Once you have carried out a survey, you can start looking into the numbers, into the data, and observing patterns. And this is the correlational aspects of quantitative research.
Once you see those patterns, you may want to start comparing A and B and asking deeper questions to create those comparisons. This is causal-comparative research.
You then move into more experimental where, by analyzing all this data and these trends, you develop new hypotheses. This in turn leads to more questions and new surveys.
Qualitative research is an in-depth exploration of what people do, think, or feel. It really allows you to get some valuable insights into consumer behavior.
There are different methods of quantitative research.
You might be a company curating a forum, or maybe you use a research agency. Forums enable you to study what people are talking about. How do they feel? You might be assessing the questions themselves or just observing conversations and gathering the information from those conversations.
You may have first asked a survey. As a result, you might say to a customer, "Would you like to talk further about it?" This allows you to probe into their answers into much more detail.
A lot of companies use in-depth interviews. They can really lead to some key insights.
HSBC developed a proposition development process called Insights Grow. And the starting point is the "I," the insights, I to G, Insights Grow. And that revolved a lot around doing in-depth interviews and one of the most successful products to come out of this was a proposition called HSBC Passport. This allowed customers who are new to the UK to get banking facilities. That product only evolved and came into existence because in the in-depth interviews. HSBC got into the detail around the difficulties of opening up a bank account. And it got some superb insights into what it was like as a person new to a country who maybe didn't have different forms of identification that we traditionally needed as a bank. They may not even have an address. One thing they prefer to do is open it up while they're still in their home country before they move over. This gives them a sense of security. Without doing those interviews, the bank would not have learned this.
Market research also allows us to understand the increasing fragmentation of audiences. This is not just about the fragmentation of consumers, but also micro-segmentation.
As marketers, we might be thinking about all these different channels. However, if we don't take an omni-channel approach and if we've not built a marketing plan that is adhered to, then we could end up using different tools without a consistent objective.
Then we start to bombard people with messages and that's not effective. That's when customers just feel like they're under attack from a brand. Think about some of the email marketing you receive, for example. If you feel that you're being bombarded, will you do business with that brand?
If we follow a fragmented approach as marketers, we don't give a consistent experience across channels. Consistency of experience is key in ensuring that customers purchase your products and remain loyal.
Also, 94% of customers discontinue communication with a company because of irrelevant messages. It has to be the right message at the right time. Segmentation allows you to do that but you also need data and you need to research when is the right time to send that message.
One example of the increased fragmentation of audience is how we consume the news. TV is dominant, because 78% of Americans watch local news TV. However, the internet is growing and 61% check the news online.
Think about the news sources you use and how often you check them. Social media represents a huge shift. It's really influencing how news is presented and consumed.
And news now happens in real time. You don't have to wait after an event to see what has happened. There will be people there on the scene broadcasting things. And think about how news channels and agencies have changed, how they present the news. It's much more about being in the moments, about live streaming, about playing out every second of the story as it develops. No longer is it just packaged up into a piece of content that is delivered later.
The final part to consider about market research is actually understanding your competitors. You can't live in a bubble. You have to be aware of what your competitor are doing because the whole point is trying to beat them!
The Chief Marketing Officer at Barclays once spoke at a marketing conference. He talked about his daily routine and the first thing he said was, "Right, when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is I kiss my wife. The second thing I do is decide who I'm going to beat today because that is my job. As a marketer, I want to be the very best, I want to be the very best for our customers, I want them to buy my products, and therefore I have to understand what our competitors are doing. Have they suddenly changed their product? Have they changed their pricing? Have they changed their brands? Have they changed their advertising?"
These are things as marketers we need to understand. You can check sources yourself, or outsource the research to companies like Nielsen or Comscore. But sometimes it's best as a marketer to understand our competitors by sitting there and thinking from both a marketer's perspective and a consumer perspective. Do desk research and go through websites and zone in on what are they doing. And if they're successful, why are they successful and what can you learn from that? And if they're not successful, what can you avoid doing as a business?Back to Top
John Makin-Shaw is the Head of Marketing at Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance. For over 15 years he has been designing, launching, and managing customer propositions for some of the UK’s biggest brands.
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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
This module introduces fundamental marketing principles and tools including the value proposition, the classic marketing mix, market research, the customer journey, communications planning, creative planning, media strategy, and amplifying brand performance. By referring to current and recent examples, it illustrates how digital technology and changing consumer behavior and lifestyles are altering the consumer decision-making process and disrupting traditional marketing models and strategies.