In essence, market research is about capturing, analyzing, interpreting and reporting on data about a market, so that organizations (e.g. corporations, public sector agencies, non-profit groups, etc.) can make informed and therefore successful decisions pertaining to customers, products/services, competitors, and so on. For example, a business would use market research to assess the viability of introducing a new product, the likely impact on demand and brand perception due to a price change, etc.
However, there are some important distinctions within the (very large) world of market research, and among the most important are the differences between B2B vs. B2C market research. Generally, there are five areas where the approaches differ:
B2B vs. B2C Market Research Difference #1: More likely to involve mixed methodologies.
Virtually all B2C market research studies involve mixed methodologies, where with B2C, this is not always the case. This requirement is based on three integrated factors: the complexity of B2B markets, the need to capture enough data, and the need to test and verify results to achieve an acceptable level of statistical confidence.
B2B vs. B2C Market Research Difference #2: More likely to involve telephone, web and email.
Because B2B market research participants are business professionals — and often management level and above — it is both more practical and cost-effective for studies to involve telephone, web and email surveys vs. in-person interviews. Focus groups are even rarer in B2B market research, given the logistical difficulty of getting participants together in the same time and space. What’s more, some decision-makers may be competitors, and so expecting them to provide candid feedback in the same room is simply not realistic.
B2B vs. B2C Market Research Difference #3: Typically involve much smaller sample sizes.
The pool of B2B market research participants is invariably much smaller than B2C, and consequently the sample sizes are smaller as well. As such, most researchers rely on the “80/20 rule,” which is to place greater weight on the responses of more important and influential respondents. With this being said, it is vital to have a sufficient number of qualified participants, or else the market research results will be skewed and unreliable.
B2B vs. B2C Market Research Difference #4: Involves units rather than individuals.
According to research by Gartner, in a company of 100-500 employees an average of 7 people are involved in a single purchase decision. B2B market research must reflect this by focusing on decision-making units rather than individuals (which is more typical of B2C research). For example, it is usually necessary to target different types of respondents separately (e.g. IT unit, finance unit, procurement unit, etc.) in order to understand the big picture of how decisions are made in the enterprise environment.
B2B vs. B2C Market Research Difference #5: Identifying incentives and getting buy-in is more difficult.
In B2C market research, incentives for participation can involve fairly straightforward rewards such as cash, gift cards, special discounts, free goods, and so on. However, incentives are more complex in B2B market research, because incentives need to be geared more toward the business that the participant works for vs. the participant him or herself (e.g. exclusive or early-bird access to a report based on the market research results vs. a gift card). At the same time, since B2B market research participants are so busy, getting buy-in and staying on their radar screen is a skill unto itself!
The Bottom Line
Considering these five factors, it is essential that B2B market research is carried out by expert researchers that have the knowledge, experiences, resources, network and tools to ensure the process is efficient and carefully controlled. Otherwise, businesses will find themselves with data, but little (if any) actionable insight — which means they cannot make smarter, faster decisions and generate ROI from their market research investment.
To learn more, contact the Communications For Research team today to talk with our co-CEO Colson Steber about B2C or B2B research. With over twenty years of experience, the CFR team will be able to guide you through the design, recruitment and analysis process with ease.
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