The field of market research is a swiftly evolving one as social media platforms and other burgeoning technologies allow massive amounts of information to be gleaned in decreasing amounts of time and effort. But while big data has changed how researchers around the world collect and analyze information, it hasn’t changed the ways researchers design the studies themselves. Below, we outline the three core types of market research. Keep in mind that a quality research strategy usually incorporates aspects of them all!
Companies use exploratory research methods to uncover facts and opinions regarding a particular subject. Exploratory research seeks to highlight the main points of a situation, thus, enabling researchers to more clearly understand an issue or concern (i.e., gain insight). It seldom provides enough data to make any conclusive market decisions, but rather forms a foundation on which companies can start to build better research objectives for subsequent studies. Oftentimes, exploratory research makes use of qualitative measures like consumer and expert interviews and focus groups, as well as secondary research materials including books, syndicated reports and trade journals or magazines.
Descriptive research seeks to concretely describe a situation in ways that will allow companies to direct decisions and monitor progress. It is quantitative by nature, using a standardized format with close-ended questions to collect information that can be statistically measured and analyzed. Surveys, questionnaires and certain types of experiments are all types of descriptive research methodologies that can provide the necessary data to formulate conclusions and take action and/or measure changing attitudes and behaviors over time. Specifically, researchers might use descriptive research techniques to gather demographic information on consumers, evaluate a product’s market potential or monitor a target group’s opinions and actions. Using the information collected, they are able to draw conclusions and/or make correlations concerning the market at large.
When companies want to establish a cause and effect relationship among two or more variables, they use causal research methods. Similar to descriptive research, causal research is quantifiable. But instead of merely reporting on a situation, causal research methods use experiments to predict and test theories about a company’s products and marketing efforts. Researchers manipulate chosen variables with the hope that a certain effect will result. For instance, a business might devise an experiment to see what would happen to sales if their product’s packaging was changed or if their advertisements were altered in some way. Although causal research can be informative, basing any action on its results should be tempered by conclusions drawn from other types of research, as it is very hard to isolate and verify any one variable’s ability to cause any given effect.
Our team at Communications for Research knows how to design projects that provide reliable and actionable results. Contact us to learn how we can help your business get the information it needs to make informed decisions, increasing everything from ROI to consumer and employee satisfaction.
You might also like to check out our free eBook, “6 Keys to Accelerate Growth with the Right Field Data Collection Partner!” In it, we outline the steps to take in order to find the right research partner for every kind of need: