Market research is an essential tool for businesses looking to gain a competitive edge in today's rapidly evolving market. However, with so many factors affecting the success of a market research project, it can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts.
To help you get the most out of your market research in 2023, we've put together a list of the 10 critical factors that will have a significant impact on your results. By considering these key elements, you can ensure that your market research is a success and sets your business up for growth.
Quantitative market research is one of the most powerful tools for gathering actionable data. There is no better way to determine if products, services, brands, and promotional campaigns will succeed than going directly to the target audience and getting their opinions. That being said, simply slapping together a survey and crossing your fingers isn’t going to cut it. To collect reliable and actionable data, you need to approach market research strategically.
Before launching your market research survey, you’ll need to carefully consider a multitude of factors. These factors can make or break your results! With that in mind, let’s go over what we’ll argue are the 10 most important factors you’ll need to keep in mind throughout your market research journey.
Before you start any market research project, it’s essential that you define very specific goals. By identifying the core goals for your study, the questions you ask will be more focused. You’ll eliminate the need to ask too many questions, which can annoy respondents and cause them to abandon your survey before they complete it. Survey fatigue is real. Trust us.
Our advice? Only ask questions that you need to know the answers to. That way you can focus on reaching the primary goals you’re looking to achieve. Fortunately, aytm has experts on hand to assist with research best practices and quality assurance that will help make the research engagement a positive experience for respondents and set your study up for success.
What are you looking for?
Determine the specific data you need to collect in order to meet your goals, and then create survey questions that will prompt respondents to give you that data. For example, if you have a long list that includes your products and all of your competitors’ similar products, you might want to conduct a Maximum Difference Scaling (MaxDiff) test to determine which products consumers prefer.
There are plenty of tools that can help you gain the data you’re looking for—and none of the data you aren’t. For instance, rather than providing a long list of product names, aytm’s automated Advanced MaxDiff test allows respondents to rate products in bite-sized groups of four.
You can see how it works in the video below.
Your budget should never be a barrier to doing research—data is what’s going to be driving your business. We get it though, budget is a big one—but don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to discover actionable insights without wrecking your wallet. So before you start throwing money around, take a minute to consider the following questions.
Lots of times, we see bandwidth tied to budget. How much time do you have to invest in a market research study? Can you analyze and interpret the results yourself? How big is your team? If you need to bring in an expert at any stage, it’s important to factor that in from the beginning, because it could account for a large chunk of your costs. Alternatively, you could try learning these things yourself. Here are some free courses you can take to get started!
Statistical significance is another important factor that can be tied to budget. Do you know your audience? Do you know your sample size? In order to avoid exceeding your budget, it’s important to think critically about the study you’re trying to launch. You want to be ready, and that not only means understanding your audience, but also understanding the questions you’ll need to ask in order to collect the data you need.
How quickly do you need your data? If timing is a factor here, you’ll definitely want to alter your approach accordingly. By now it’s widely accepted that traditional offline studies can take weeks or months and be costly, while online surveys using DIY tools can be fulfilled in hours.
Don’t rush things, though. Be sure to set achievable deadlines and expectations that work for your project and your stakeholders. It’s important to allow adequate time and space to craft a plan accordingly, make sure your plan is checking the boxes and answering the important questions. If you’re rushing things, it’ll show in the data. Setting expectations with internal stakeholders can't be understated here. It’s hard not to over-promise internally—we get it—but strive for transparency as much as possible.
And finally, let’s talk about incidence rate (IR). Incidence Rate is a measure of the rate of occurrence or the percentage of persons eligible to participate in a study. So ask yourself: Do I know my IR? Does an IR check need to take place? Knowing the answer can help you plan more effectively. If you’re looking at a lower IR, plan for it to take longer to field. But a higher IR means you should feel pretty confident that your study will field in just a few days.
When you conduct a market research survey, the audience of people you want to take the survey should be extremely well-defined. If you’re not asking the right people to take your survey, then the results you get could be meaningless. That doesn’t mean it always has to be incredibly specific or granular, but depending on your research goals, it certainly can mean that.
Have you run a segmentation study to really understand your core audience? If not, that’s totally ok—companies like aytm offer courtesy IR checks to help ensure we have an understanding of the audience you’re looking to reach with your study. Will you need to be more flexible on your request? There’s always a chance. For example, if you’re looking to reach a B2B audience, they could be harder to reach because of their bandwidth. This doesn’t mean you should count them out—it’s just something that will affect your study, and it’s better to plan accordingly than to be blindsided by it.
6. Survey questions
Writing great survey questions requires some thought. First, you need to determine what questions you should ask in order to gather the data you need to meet your goals. We suggest having well-defined screener questions so you can cut your data and make sure you’re connecting with the audience you’re reaching for. Survey logic is also really important. And while it can be daunting, it can also really make your survey experience shine. If you’re interested, this logic course can help you make sure you’re setting things up properly.
Empathy is everything when writing survey questions. Make sure to use language respondents will understand. If you were in their shoes, how would you feel about these questions? Avoid using jargon, abbreviations, and slang unless you’re certain your target audience is familiar with those terms. Oh, and make sure the phrasing of your questions doesn’t create bias among your respondents.
But our biggest piece of advice when it comes to survey questions is to get a peer review. We can’t stress it enough! You should always have multiple people review your survey for clarity. When you write all the survey questions, they’ll always make sense to you, but you’d be surprised how others might interpret them! Furthermore, don’t be afraid to lean on experts. As much as it can help with internal colleagues reviewing your work, leverage the expertise where you have it. The last thing you want is to spend all that time building out a questionnaire only to get bad data when the results come in.
7. Analysis and interpretation
Here’s where things get tricky: It doesn’t matter how much data you collect, all of those numbers are useless if you don’t know what they mean to your goals and your business. And no matter how quickly your study fields, it could take weeks to analyze your data in order to arrive at actionable insights. Again, try to lean on the experts here—which brings us to our next point…
Not a data analyst? It’s going to be ok. You have two options here: First, you can hire a market research expert or company to help you if you don’t have the skills on your team. Or, you can take a DIY approach by leveraging an insights platform like aytm’s, which has expertise built into the tech and will extrapolate all of the collected data for you and presents it in easy-to-understand reports. Either way, recognizing the importance of analysis will help you tell the story behind your data and lead to better decisions!
Support can come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes working with a full-service market research intelligence team is the right option. Sometimes you just need a gut check before you launch. The bottom line? Just recognize where you might be spinning your wheels and take the opportunity to grab some help. You’ll move your project forward, and your research will totally benefit from it.
Collaboration is everything here. So look for partners who take a consultative approach to research, so don’t feel like you’re always going to have to do it on your own. The aytm research services team has tremendous experience in drafting reports and highlighting key findings that help cut down this analysis time. It can help you stay confident knowing that the experts conducted the bulk of the analysis and set you and your team off in the right direction.
And as much as aytm is respected for our research expertise, we’re also well-known for education. We saw the power of educating our clients and decided to do something about it. It’s why we continue to partner with MMR programs, and it’s why our Learning and Enablement Team built the Lighthouse Academy with the goal of empowering our clients to conduct better, more efficient, and more actionable research.
9. Decisions and action
At the end of the day, research is useless if you don’t take action based on the results. The hard part can be when the results don’t match your original hypothesis. Often, people go into a market research study with a predetermined outcome in mind. If the results don’t affirm their original opinions or the results uncover faults in a product or business, they’ll ignore them and claim the data is flawed.
Trust us, we’ve been in many corporate executive meetings where this has happened. We’ve even been asked to focus only on specific results that affirm a CEO’s desires and ignore the other data. The truth is, if you’re not going to listen to what the data tells you, it’s just gonna be a waste of money investing in market research. The key is to always be prepared to learn that your original assumptions were incorrect, to always be ready to make the changes needed and to be excited to rectify problems and seize the new opportunities you’re presented with. Be prepared to have data change your mind.
10. Iterate and repeat
Market research should be an ongoing process. When you complete a survey and launch a new product as a result, follow up with customer satisfaction research. When a survey tells you how to position your brand against competitors’ brands, don’t assume those results will hold true forever—follow up to see how consumers’ perception of your brand and other brands has changed.
In the end, every time you invest in market research, you stand to learn more about your customers, your competitors, and the market. The data is so valuable, so make sure you’re continuing to collect it and continue to use it.
If you’re still curious, take a look at some of our case studies to see how brands are iterating their research to stay on top of consumer behaviors and perceptions. Here’s one where Homethrive, a caregiving support benefit innovator, leveraged our platform to iterate on a past survey in order to further their vision of reducing the work, worry, and stress for unpaid family caregivers, their loved ones, and their employers.
Ok, that’s a wrap!
We hope you were able to pull some value from this! By taking these 10 critical factors into consideration, you can really optimize your market research efforts and set yourself up for success. Whether you're conducting market research for a new product launch, exploring new market opportunities, or just looking to improve your current offerings, these guidelines should help you get the results you need to make informed decisions for your business.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2017 but updated in 2023 for relevancy.