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The market research process

Market research process

Market research is conducted because you have a problem or an opportunity that requires further investigation.

Market research follows a simple six-step process.

Step 1: Define the research objectives

Defining your research objectives requires careful consideration. If you define the research too narrowly you may not uncover critical information, and if you define it too broadly you may gather too much information that you do not need or will not use.

The research objectives relate to what you want to know. An example of a research objective might be: to develop a more in-depth understanding of my customers.

Step 2: Develop the research plan

Plan how you intend to efficiently gather your information. There are several areas you will need to consider in this step.

Data sources:

The use of primary data (data you gather first hand from your customers or clients for your research purposes) or secondary data (data you gather from other sources for other purposes but will fit your research requirements).

Research processes:

This is the approach you propose to collect your primary data. For example, observation, focus groups, surveys, experiments, online analysis (via web analytics).

Once you’ve decided on the approach, you can then consider the tools (also known as instruments) you will use to collect the data. The three primary instruments are:

  • Quantitative measures (surveys/questionnaires) - These are a set of questions you present to your customers or consumers to find out their behaviours and attitudes. You can also validate any demographic information at the same time.
  • Qualitative measures (word association, projective techniques, visualisation, brand personification and laddering) - Qualitative measures are used within surveys or interviews to find out more about your customers or consumers’ opinions.
  • Technological devices (laboratory based testing - not suitable on a limited budget).

Depending on what you want to find out, you could use one of five methods of qualitative measurement:

  • Word association to link concepts and brands.
  • Projective techniques ask customers or consumers to look at a picture and fill in the empty bubble (like those used in cartoons) to indicate what they believe is going on in the picture.
  • Visualisation involves asking your customer or consumer to cut out images from a magazine to create a collage to express their perceptions on a topic.
  • Brand personification asks your customer or consumer to describe the brand as a person. So, if you asked “If the brand Apple was a person, what type of person would it be?”, the customer or consumer would then tell you things about their perceptions of that brand in terms of what it is like, where it lives, what it would wear, who it would talk to if it went to a party, what it would talk about at the party, etc.
  • Laddering is a technique of asking ‘why’. By continuing to ask ‘why?’ you can uncover motivations and a deeper understanding of what goals your customer or consumer is trying to achieve by using your product or service. It is a great way to uncover the real reason or meaning around something.

As part of this step you’ll need to consider your sampling plan - that is, who (from a profile perspective) you are going to survey, how many people you will survey, and who from your contact list will you survey. You will also need to consider how you intend to contact them. For example, will you send an email, will you use an agency to make telephone calls, or personally contact them, or will you use online systems such social networks, research platforms (such as Survey Monkey)?

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This article is from the free online course:

Online Business: Customer Profiling for Success

RMIT University