Research is the only way of determining whether your business idea has the chance to take off. Business research helps to gather a variety of data in order to determine the USPs of a startup, and what types of products and services would perform best for consumers. Such research can be carried out by turning to a number of varied methods that have different benefits for different types of business operations. Whether you’re looking to enter a new market, scale in an existing one, or develop a niche service, these business research methods can help to accurately anticipate your chances of being successful.
It’s important to note that business research isn’t just essential to small and expanding endeavours, and established international companies also turn to varied levels of research in order to explore whether the business is ready to set up offices in a new region or assess emerging competitors.
(Share of traditional quantitative methods used in the market research industry worldwide in Q3 and Q4 2018. Image: Statista)
For startups, research can aid entrepreneurs in understanding their levels of consumer demand and gauge the quality of the competitors in the field that they’re setting up shop in. Naturally, it can also benefit companies that are comfortably operating but want to scope out emerging trends or look deeper into their own sales performances.
There’s no shortage of valid approaches when it comes to providing businesses with valuable insights, whatever their reasons for conducting research. Here’s an in-depth look at a selection of the most popular research methods that are in use by businesses today, and how effective they are in delivering tangible information:
There’s a wealth of data out there ready to be interpreted and contextualised by entrepreneurs. If a business owner is interested in exploring a specific market, there is plenty of information to be found through pre-existing secondary data via governmental documentation and trade association metrics. These insights can be relatively easy to access and highly insightful towards certain industries and market sectors.
The collection of data typically involves examining relevant information from existing databases, case studies, financial records and news items among other sources in order to get a clear insight in a swift manner.
Choosing this form of business research can be much quicker and more cost-effective in terms of gathering information compared to the other methods listed in this article. However, it’s also possible to combine such data with other forms of research to help entrepreneurs to carry out more informed business decisions.
Surveys are an extremely useful and popular form of business research. Fairly inexpensive to create, and with the potential to be undertaken entirely online, surveys are another quick and easy way of gaining business insights.
Questionnaire hosting websites mean that quick surveys can be easily created free of charge online, with a URL linking from a business owner’s website or a company social media post.
It’s also possible to physically talk to customers in more detailed telephone surveys. However, finding a ready and willing audience to participate can be something of a stumbling block – usually due to the time-consuming nature of conducting a survey and the complexity of the questions for more casual audiences. However, the wealth of insights that a well-produced and targeted telephone survey campaign can bring to businesses certainly can’t be underestimated.
Focus Groups and Interview Insights
Focus groups allow businesses to get to grips with valuable insights from target audiences. Typically, a business focus group will only feature a relatively small number of participants – generally ranging from around six to 12 carefully selected participants.
Here, designated moderators ask carefully selected questions to hear more about a brand, product, marketing material or ideas.
Both interviews and focus groups are a more time-consuming means of gathering data, but offer businesses a considerably larger amount of information regarding consumer perceptions and insights. Individual interviews can also prove valuable and less difficult to set up than focus groups. In both cases, the individuals tested will consist of the business’ target audience, and interviewers will have the opportunity to ask followup questions and ask individuals to elaborate on their answers. However, it’s important to note that both focus groups and interviews can fall foul to participant bias – owing to the relatively small number of individuals tested.
It’s also worth guarding against ‘groupthink’ – which can occur if one member of a focus group is particularly outspoken and influential in their answers. This can affect the answers and perceptions of other participants.
Website Traffic Analysis
As wells as positioning online surveys on to a website, business owners and marketers can also utilise traffic data in order to spot trends in page viewership and keyword accessibility. Analysing just who is visiting a website can help users to become more aware of their traffic demographics that haven’t yet been fully optimised. There are plenty of research resources available at a low cost that helps website owners to keep track of not only how their website is performing but also that of their nearest competitors. Google Analytics, for instance, stands as a solid free option.
One of the most significant trends in recent years involves businesses respecting the performance of mobile visits to websites or eCommerce stores. Due to the burgeoning level of visitors arriving on smartphone devices, more mobile insight leads to businesses better understanding the behaviour of mobile-based traffic. Analytics platforms also help businesses to learn how to interact with audiences when they arrive on-site.
Utilise Case Studies
Case studies are undeniably the most time-consuming methods of gathering business research data. However, they’re also capable of revealing a wealth of insight towards a potential product or market that would be impossible to obtain elsewhere. In a case study, a prototype or sample of a product or service is sent to an individual from a target audience in order to use for an extended period of time.
While it’s primarily used for premium goods, case studies can work well in providing insights into consumables also. Case studies can compile information gathered from many of the research methods already discussed in this article – from surveys to interviews and individual usage observations.
Fundamentally, the goal of a case study is to assess with some confidence whether a prospective product has a place in its desired market, or whether the said market is ready to buy into a product or service.
Drawing a Line Under Research
Business research can be gathered for just about any cause. Regardless of whether an entrepreneur is planning on launching a startup, or an established business is ready to launch a new line of products, research can pay dividends in identifying how well a product will be received by target audiences in the marketplace.
It’s an invaluable asset to be able to identify the individual strengths and weaknesses or a product and learn ways in which to improve its delivery – from marketing techniques to pricing, to additional extras.
Technology is ever-evolving and will continue to improve the efficiency in which businesses collect information. With research tools, survey platforms and web analytics programs continuing to take centre stage, the process of gathering data has become much more streamlined and swift. In an industry where time means money, finding the right research method could be worth its weight in gold.