The global economy is built on a foundation of small and medium businesses. According to the United Nations, these make up 90% of the business population in developed countries and account for up to 90% of businesses and about 50% of employment worldwide, according to the World Bank.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many businesses, forcing some to temporarily stop operations, even leaving some with no choice but to close. At present, global economies are starting to regain footing with businesses slowly returning to normal operations, people starting to return to physical workspaces from remote working, and everybody slowly getting used to the new normal.

 

One of the after-effects of the pandemic is a shift in consumer habits. For instance, since consumers’ physical movement has been limited and the number of persons allowed in physical spaces is limited, consumers have opted for online transactions and purchases instead. Consumers have also spent more time on leisure activities to cope with increased stress levels and keep up their mental wellbeing. A means for businesses to better understand customer behavior and be able to respond to other changes in the market is through market research.

 

What is market research?

Market research involves mapping out the customer journey, understanding customers’ pain points, behavior, sentiments on a product or service, and then using this information to develop your products, services, and marketing and advertising campaigns. This also helps to segment your target market and avoid acting on assumptions that can lead to costly mistakes. 

 

Market research tips

Larger businesses have the option to hire an external firm to conduct market research for them since these have the technology to gather the statistics they need and can reach a larger number of respondents. For instance, Market Xcel provides detailed and comprehensive research and deep layered solutions that can address your business issues. But with limited resources and a smaller market, how can smaller businesses conduct effective market research?

1) Define your objectives and choose your method

Knowing what questions you want to be answered through your research can help you stay on track and avoid incurring additional expenses in the process. List down what information you need to gather and how you’ll use it.

Once you have your objectives, you can decide whether to conduct primary or secondary research. Primary research involves collecting data that hasn’t been collected by other sources; this can be done through brand awareness surveys, interviews, focus group discussions, and customer observation. Through your primary research, you can look for ways to improve your current marketing strategy, explore opportunities, and look for solutions to problems your business may face. Secondary research, on the other hand, involves using data that has already been gathered by other parties which are usually available online or can be downloaded for a small fee. Secondary research also covers measurable consumer trends, industry news, statistics, and reports you already have. 

2) Study and learn through your customers

Understanding your customers is important, but knowing who your buyer personas are can help you create better marketing strategies and visualize your target market clearer as well. Buyer personas represent your ideal customer whose characteristics such as age, gender, job, and income can be used as a guide for planning your content and campaigns. Business owners need to pick up not only on customers’ emotional drivers and thoughts but also think of external factors that can contribute to their consumer behavior better versus simply tracking their purchases.

 

3) Conduct your research

As mentioned, market research can be conducted through various means. Interviews involve getting detailed feedback from individuals and can be done in person, over the phone, or through web-based applications. Focus group discussions involve a group of around 8-10 persons to participate in a guided discussion where opinions on a product or service are gathered. These can be held in person or through virtual meetings, depending on your participants’ preferences. Surveys nowadays are conducted through web-based applications and can also be used to gather more detailed demographic information of your consumers.

In conducting your research, be mindful of the time your respondents may take to answer your survey and structure your questions to get specific answers since they could lose interest if these take up too much of their time. 

 

4) Analyze and incorporate your findings

Conducting market research doesn’t stop at gathering data. Data should be analyzed, summarized into reports, and used to come up with action plans to respond to these findings. Information you’ve gathered can be used for reference not only for present action but for future projects as well. These findings can be incorporated into marketing plans, 

The business environment is constantly changing; technology is evolving, social media plays a bigger part in marketing, and other unforeseen events can come into play and make an impact on existing trends. Conducting market research helps businesses understand customer behavior to not only cater to the market better but to allot resources to these efforts efficiently. Market research helps businesses identify new customers and get to know existing ones better, strategize and set targets, increase brand awareness, or even look into expansion.

Writer Credits: Bash Sarmiento