Market research is one of the crucial steps in a running a successful business. No matter how amazing your product or service is, without understanding your customers its going to be tough for you to make a splash in your marketplace. There are two phases of market research, primary and secondary. Here we are going to focus on primary research which means collecting insights directly from people whether that is in the form of interviews, focus groups, surveys or other methods.
Primary method is going to be the most valuable for you because they are going to answer the specific questions you have about your customers and your business. But as a second point you may benefit from secondary research. This is the research that is already out there and analysed for you. Secondary research is good for basic research and details about your industry like market size, major players, so you can understand where you fit in and on a high level how to differentiate yourself on that space. Secondary research is often available for free from government organizations like the Bureau of Labour Statistics or you can buy reports from large research organizations.
When people think about market research the first thing that comes to their mind is the focus group, a discussion with a room full of people who share the common traits. Focus group tend to get a bad rap in the industry mostly because they have been misused for years. In market research participants often say one thing and do another. That means when you ask someone to describe what they would do, its notoriously unreliable. However, focus groups are perfect in some situations.
Let’s look at three times when you share use of a focus group as a part of your research plan. First, a focus group can be the best bet when you brainstorm ideas directly from your target audience. Focus groups are perfect in brainstorming new ideas. They are also a good option when you are starting from scratch and getting to know your customer. With a focus group, you can invite your customers to tell you experience about your company or describe how they felt with different interactions with your brand. Even if you weren’t sure who your core customers were after one focus group you should be make pretty good hypothesis. The third reason to consider a focus group is if you want to know how the public will react to a new product or situation. Hearing people discuss their reaction and bounce ideas off each another helps to gauge what emotions a new product or situation would bring up. Politicians use focus groups to pilot messaging or get the words right to a deliver a speech to a big crowd. Likewise, you might have to use a focus group to pilot questions for a large-scale quantitative study. Focus groups measure reactions not behaviour. They won’t give you answers but they will help you gather ideas and measure shared sentiment.
People love to talk about their experiences and your customers are people. If you can direct their chatter towards your research goals, you will be able to uncover deep insights quicker than you ever thought possible. We will share 3 things you will be doing while conducting interviews and 3 things you should avoid at all cost:
How to interview
- Make sure you know what your goal is going to the interview
- Built rapport.
- Reflect back their emotions
- Talking more than you listen
- Asking “why?”
- Forgetting to test your questions
Our brains tend to link emotional moments with visuals in our mind and researchers have figured out how to leverage this connection. Just like other interviews image-based interviews start by inviting the right participants to the party. The difference here is that you ask them to do some prep work to bring 10 to 15 pictures to the interview. The second step is to run one-on-one interviews where you talk with participants about each picture they bring. Ask with general thoughts and feelings and then follow up with questions that dig deeper. Third, use a forced pairing technique that asks participants to think about that topic in images that normally wouldn’t associate with it.
Ethnography is a research model associated with social and cultural anthropology. Over the past decade it has gained a lot of traction in the market research. It’s a way to immerse yourself in your audience’s natural environment, observing behaviour in their homes, offices, schools, anywhere else they go. With ethnography you get first-hand to see how users interact with technology in their daily lives on their own devices in their daily routines. It helps researchers and stakeholders empathize with customers and solve real problems for them. These immersive interviews are so powerful. There are two types of ethnography. The first one is passive observation. This is when you shadow a customer while they go back their everyday tasks. You don’t interrupt them or ask them questions, you just observe and document with notes, photographs, sketches and videos. The second type is contextual interviews. This is where you observe and interact asking questions and probing deeper. While questions can be drafted in advance, the best immersive interviews are unscripted prompted solely by what is happening in the moment. It takes time how to build rapport quickly, get a participant talking, observe their actions and keep your questions aligned with your research goals, but aside from practise, the set up is simple and anyone can do it.
All you have to do is to be present and completely focused on your participant. The interviews themselves do take time anywhere between two to six hours. As a result, the cost is higher than other methods, but it is one of the biggest ways to dig deep into your customer’s journey and really learn how they are incorporating your brand in their lives.
Dairy studies are about recording behaviour when it happens. They help you explore the moments that matter, by capturing them at the moment they happen. In a project for Google news, participants were asked to record their screen every time they checked the news over 4-day period and explain what they were looking at. These time stamped diary entries helped in identifying the reasons that certain audiences were switching between news apps. The screen recordings helped in learning about the features they needed at different moments in their experience. Learning about your customer experience in context will help you make confident decisions about your brand or product. Mobile diary studies make this a good option to understanding more about your customers. And unlike in-person interviews this is a scalable option.
In their first year, Amazon.com invested 100 times more in their usability testing and they did in marketing and according to Jeff Bezos, this was the strategy that led to amazon’s success. Usability testing is the type of research that is done when we already have a website, app or prototype and we might want to see how our audiences might use it. These are one-on-one sessions and all you need to start seeing trends is just a handful of participants. Research shows that you don’t get sizably better results by testing more than five participants per audience segment. The goal here is small scale interactive testing on a continuous basis. When planning your usability testing, you will first have to decide whether it should be open ended or driven by specific tasks which we call scenarios. Based on your goals you might want the participants to poke around freeform, talk about first impressions and show you what they might use in real life. Sometimes, you want to focus on specific parts of your site. In these cases, use scenarios. For example, a scenario when testing e-commerce app might be “show me how you would add to your cart?”. The second decision you should take is if you want a moderator, someone to be there live to lead a session. You are able to create conversation, ask to follow up and probe into anything that seems interesting or unexpected. If participants don’t understand a task you can help explain. If you need testing done faster and a larger scale though, unmoderated usability testing is an option. There are a number of third-party tools that can help you set up an unmoderated test, where participants record their screen and speak out loud as they respond to written scenario. While you won’t be able to ask questions in real time, you might actually get realistic feedback because the participant is acting on their own rather than trying to please a facilitator. Finally, you will need to consider whether to conduct your session in-person or remotely. Ultimately, usability testing works because you are gathering information directly from your target users. Even with just five participants you are going to see trends about what is working and what is not so that you can make your products better for the people who matter the most, your customers.
Survey research is often used to explain trends or features of large groups. 4 best practises for your survey research includes:
- Determining the goal
- Keep it short and sweet with prioritising critical question
- Writing simple, direct and specific questions
- Pilot your questions
A few years ago, Vespa scooters set up to attract more customers. Using analytics, they found out that Vespa owners, posted far more on topics related to style, fashion, design, architecture and art. So instead of blogging just about scooters, Vespa started posting about these topics too. In just 3 months, Vespa drove 50,000 more visitors to their site many using more keywords related to style and art. This meant 2800 sales leads for Vespa almost half of which were new to the brand. That’s useful data. There is a lot to gain by routinely looking at data being generated by customers. Let’s dig into 3 types of analytics that modern day researcher uses to learn more about their customers.
The first is web analytics. Web analytics help you understand how your website visitors flow through your site and interact with specific pages. They provide insights on technical issues, content topics, and most importantly where your visitors dropped from the conversion path.
The second type is search analytics. Search data tells you what keywords your potential customers uses to find you and what other terms they are searching for. You can segment your visitors by the words they use, whether they are new or returning, their geography, how they got there. Learning the most common keywords used on your site and on your competitor’s, site will help you fine tune your content. By adding more what is working and targeting those specific audience segments, it is a no brainer that you will boost your conversions.
The third type of analytics is social listening. This is where we mine social media for information about your customers.
Eye Tracking and Biometrics
Today eye tracking and biometrics research tools can detect eye motions, sweat beads, heart rates and micro expression on the face. Eye tracking is a tool that uses reflections from the eyes cornea to measure how the eye moves. With this type of tool, you can learn where your customers look, what they look at, how much time they spend gazing at different stimuli and how their pupils react. You will end up with a heat map of where your participant cast their gazes. Eye tracking tools can be used on a computer or by wearing special glasses in a more open setting to test things like brand placement on a grocery store shelf, research on how customers move between retail shelves and their phones ore ad placement on a busy airport.
Galvanic Skin Response or the GSR measures even the smallest changes in the sweat gland activity, which can tell us about how intensely our emotions kick in as we use a product or react to a brand. Heart rate monitors can give us data on what speeds or slows the heart rate indicating an emotional reaction. Facial expression analysis is a computer guided system that detects even the smallest micro expression on the face. There are apps today that can literally use your phone’s camera to detect what a person’s facial expressions are saying. Eye tracking and biometric research tools are being applied across a wide variety of industries to make us safer, ensure that a particular ad pops and help us create better products. All this technology is available to help you better understand your customers.
With the above methods you will be able to nail down a sound research plan and start gathering the customer insights you need. For help along the way feel free to mail us @ [email protected].