Reconsidering survey design and research design periodically can help make your process more effective and your data more useful. Market research can become routine, especially for firms that specialize in conducting field service interviews and surveys, but evaluating your current techniques and trying to adopt best practices from across the industry can augment your ability to generate meaningful results and provide added value to clients.
Here are just some of the practices adopted by industry leaders in their quest to product the most useful data from market research:
1. Ask Respondents for Facts About Their Life, Not Opinions
Many researchers seek to answer marketing questions in the most direct way possible. Survey questions like, “Which of the following shaving products have the most enjoyable user experience?” ask for a vague reaction to an ill-defined question that has no inherent meaning to consumers outside of marketing pitch jargon. Even if the respondent was able to answer the question truthfully and in the intended context, without an established profile of their needs an “enjoyable user experience” is entirely subjective.
Instead, researchers must seek out questionnaire designs that create real, useful data points that could later be cross-referenced or correlated to other responses. The respondent can be asked first if they shave, then how often, then how long they spend shaving, then whether or not they use shaving creams or foams, how frequently they cut themselves and so on to create a profile of their typical user needs. Only then will obtaining their opinion of products create a more robust image of how the consumer market makes decisions on the products or services they need.
2. Create Comparison Points
This maxim should be research design 101, but unfortunately many market research initiatives end up only capturing a snapshot of a tiny market segment and not at all the true nature of the client’s actual product reach.
For example, many firms use isolated test markets that profess to be a “true representation of American consumers.” Rather than taking this assertion on faith, several test markets should be used to aggregate results and draw correlations between the regional differences. Additionally, performing another survey in the same market over time can reveal changes in opinion or behavior that are far more meaningful than a one-time cross-sectional survey design.
One example would be in the financial services industry. Non-profit institution the Alliance for Financial Inclusion recommends comparing different international markets with your initial test market to get a more three-dimensional perspective on how market conditions can affect behavior. They mention that the Bank of Zambia regularly evaluates its financial performance in reference to other companies to obtain a “stark reality of how well or how poor Zambia is doing compared to other markets.”
3. Leverage Supply-Side Data to Reduce Costs
Market research often concerns specific research questions that may only be of interest to the client, but population-wide statistics can provide tremendous insights that inform the direction and conclusions of the client’s research field. Often, these statistics are gathered by regulatory agencies and other public-service entities like public health departments and the U.S. Census.
For instance, data gathered by consumer advocacy groups and health agencies can reveal the level of eye strain experienced after certain hours of electronic screen use. Industry data from insurance agencies can also draw information about incidence of eye strain in tech-heavy users like IT staff. Together with qualitative market research, a company can reveal how users of their eye-strain-reducing glasses can help them work on computers for longer without the results seen in the data gleaned from outside sources.
Since the acquisition of this third-party data is extremely cheap if not nearly free, this type of research design lowers costs and quickly creates a national benchmark to work from.
With calculated research design decisions like these, you can create more conclusive answers to research questions while increasing your capability to ask more robust research questions into the future. You can learn more about avoiding research design flaws or inefficiencies by viewing our informative video on the five most common mistakes market researchers should avoid.