How to Conduct Exploratory Research

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Posted Jan 11, 2018

Typically, the need to conduct market research starts with a prerequisite to better understand an internal business problem, clearly define a hypothesis, or increase your knowledge base about potential customers. Exploratory research can aid in providing answers to such needs; it can help gain comprehensive insights, narrow the focus, and provide fundamentals necessary for impending growth. Focus groups, case studies, syndicated research, or expert interviews are considered acceptable research techniques when conducting exploratory research.

Engage in Guided Discussions

Focus groups are frequently used in exploratory research. The open discussion format allows researchers to build a greater understanding from a variety of perspectives in a short time frame. In a focus group, only 8-12 people who fit within a specified target are brought together to talk and answer questions on the subject being researched. For instance, Disney holds regular focus groups consisting of preschoolers and young children. They were able to accomplish this by partnering with preschools and primary schools near the company headquarters in Los Angeles. For their participation, the schools receive donations and the children get Disney stickers for their involvement. By doing this, Disney is able to discover what kind of characters the children like. In addition, Disney is also able to get feedback about ongoing TV series and opinions on Disney-themed toys and videos. The children’s reactions and comments about the merchandise provide instrumental help in making marketing decisions.

Build on Research That Identifies Risk Factors

Exploratory case studies are usually accompanied by additional data collection methods such as interviews or questionnaires, but overall this technique is the initial step to a formal, large-scale research project. The goal of a case study is to understand if a larger investigation of a business idea, problem, or opportunity is necessary. For instance, here at AYTM we developed a case study for a mobile technology company who industrialized the world's first and only intelligent cases for smartphones and tablets. Though the technology was superior, it was only half of the puzzle. Initial prototypes were not exciting enough to differentiate in the crowded category of mobile device accessories. The challenge was to find the product design, packaging and messaging that appealed to mobile/smartphone owners in functionality, design, and appearance. After a series of research projects conducted in collaboration with AYTM experts; Pong’s team finalized a winning case design, which was manufactured and successfully released late Summer 2013.

Collect Open Market Data

Syndicated market research is typically performed by market research companies without a request from a client. This type of research provides a broad overview of an industry or segment rather than reporting on the more tailored insights that come from a single client’s market research project. At times, the high-level view of the data can be just as useful as a more comprehensive custom research project. With studies like, Consumer Trends in 2018, there is potential to see overall trends in the industry, which can help folks understand what may be coming for your brand in the future. For instance, if your brand or product caters to travelers, you will learn that 42% of the 1000 US residents that were interviewed in this study said they plan on traveling in 2018. That piece of information can be used to further your research and help improve your market research plan.

Enhance Your Content With Expert Interviews

Conducting an expert interview can help clients develop more precise evidence about a particular area of study. The most crucial part of an expert interview is to establish who in the area you are researching is considered an expert. Experts should have an extensive amount of knowledge, experience, and ability in his or her particular area of study. For example, if one was tasked with surveying the public’s stance and awareness on improving local streets and sidewalks, he or she could create a preliminary expert survey for a selected group of Public Works authorities. The survey would include general open-ended questions that are designed to receive large amounts of feedback so that experts can freely demonstrate their knowledge. With the valuable expert input, one could then continue on to construct a survey that covers all sides of the issues.

The Takeaway

Remember, exploratory research is a vital first step in any market research plan! Just as you wouldn’t drive a car blindfolded, you also wouldn’t want to illogically structure or design a questionnaire without a strong understanding of your potential consumer’s attitudes, opinions, and behavior associated with your business topic. Use exploratory research as a method to understand such opinions and behaviors more thoroughly before attempting to collect mass responses to analyze and draw conclusions.

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