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Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds Primary research is new information, research that you’re conducting for your particular project. The first thing you need to do when conducting primary research is identify what information it is that you want to find out. Then we identify what’s the best way to collect that information and then go out and get it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 36 seconds Survey research is when you ask your potential customers a set of questions about information that you want to know. Survey research is easy to conduct online using a number of different online survey tools. These are easy to access, easy to use, relatively inexpensive, or even free. Observation research is another primary research tool that you can use. It’s really easy because you don’t need to actually have any contact with customers. All we’re doing is observing people as they naturally behave. We can learn more about what they do, how they interact with products. And that can help you in developing your own product or service. Another primary research method you could use are interviews.

Skip to 1 minute and 16 seconds Interviews can be either formal or informal conversations with people in your network or potential customers about what they think about your new product or service idea. The benefit of conducting primary research is that you can uncover new ideas and information that you may not have already been aware of. And it also means you can get this firsthand, and you don’t have to interpret research that someone else has conducted.

Primary Research

Now that you understand primary research, let’s look at the methods available to you as an online business owner to determine the types of questions you could ask.

The sorts of questions you might want to ask yourself include:

  • Is there a demand for my product/service?
  • Who are my potential customers and consumers?
  • What are the wants and needs of my potential customers?
  • What are they prepared to pay?
  • How do they want my product/service packaged and delivered?
  • What is the size of my market?
  • Do different customers have different needs?
  • How often would they purchase my product or use my service?

Savvy business people always check their assumptions through research before investing too much time or money in developing their ideas.

As mentioned earlier, primary research can be undertaken using a variety of methods, including surveys, interviews, observation and online analysis. Let’s take a closer look at each of these methods.


Surveys and interviews are the most commonly used research tools. They are popular because they are easy to conduct. The three most popular methods of conducting surveys are:

  • Personal surveys: these are face-to-face surveys, such as mall intercepts. For example, you could stand in front of a local supermarket on a Saturday morning with samples of your products and ask passers by for feedback.
  • Telephone surveys: these help you gather information quickly across a wide geographic area. However, people often want to only answer brief questions and many people do not like to answer telephone surveys. Indeed, an increasing number of people no longer have home numbers and use their mobile number, making it difficult to reach some consumers. Alternatively, you could ask customers who have purchased from you some questions about why they bought and how they found the purchasing process.
  • Electronic surveys: via email are very popular, but there are some challenges around privacy legislation and spam blockers preventing your email from getting through.

Some great survey tools you could consider are Survey Monkey or Survey Gizmo. Refer to Related links to take a look at each of these tools.


‘Experts’ (people, associations and industry bodies) that have been in your industry for a long time are a great source of information and they will have plenty of current and historical knowledge.

Ask them about the other businesses that are involved in the type of product or service you want to sell, ask questions about supply of materials, trends they are seeing in the industry, and the way customer and consumer purchase behaviour is changing.


If you were identified as a potential customer and the company was going to undertake research to find out more about what you like and don’t like, would you prefer to be interviewed or to complete an online survey?

Post your comments in the Comments section. Explain why you have a personal preference for one research method over another.

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This video is from the free online course:

Online Business: Customer Profiling for Success

RMIT University