For those of us who work in the market research industry, we sometimes forget that those on the outside of our industry don’t realize the many steps required to take a qualitative market research project from concept to finished product.
There are many steps involved in conducting market research, and we work with nationwide qualitative market research firms AND DIY clients. For clients who are undertaking a market research project on their own, in order to be successful, it’s first important to understand the various facets of tackling a market research study.
No two studies are alike, but there is a basic framework that most market research studies are built upon.
- Hypothesis: before you can design a market research study, you must first clarify the hypothesis, or essential question to be answered. This will vary widely depending on the subject matter, but generally a company wants to know ‘how’ and ‘why’ consumers make the decisions they do. Once the essential question has been determined, you can then decide which qualitative or quantitative methodologies to use in the study.
- Screener: Once the hypothesis of the study has been determined, next up is deciding who should participate. Screeners help weed out participants who don’t qualify, either because they are in the wrong demographic or because they aren’t familiar with the product or concept being studied. Screening guides are an important tool for researchers, and can make or break a study. Ultimately, you want a representative sample of consumers who meet the criteria of the study.
- Recruiting: Once a number of qualified people have been identified to participate in a study, next up is scheduling and managing the participants. Recruiting takes a lot of time and energy, and it’s a task that is best left to nationwide recruiting firms.
- Focus Groups, and more: If the study is qualitative, rather than quantitative, then it’s likely that you’ll be conducting focus groups or in-depth interviews. While there are many methodologies for examining what governs consumer behavior, focus groups and in-depth interviews remain popular choices for market research.
- Transcription: Once all the data has been collected from focus groups or interviews, next you’ll need to have all the conversations transcribed. This step is important, as it allows the researcher to read through the many transcripts and enter the data into coding spreadsheets.
- Coding: There are many ways to code data, but a common way is to input the questions posed to the participants into a spreadsheet and then capture the various responses to each question. By doing this, the researcher can begin to identify patterns between responses. It’s not uncommon for many participants to have similar responses, albeit in their own words. Think of coding as a distillation process. You want to begin to consolidate all the data into a concise report that provides insights to what drives consumer behavior.
- Report: With the tedious job of coding behind you, it’s now time to focus on the report. Write your report with a story arc in mind. Reports that have a beginning, middle, and end are easier to follow. Depending on who the report is going to (C-suite personnel, or strategic or marketing teams) will help you know what to emphasize in the report. Recommendations or call-outs are always appreciated.
With this framework in hand, you can think about conducting a market research study on your own. We recommend using professionals who are well-versed in market research, but sometimes budgets don’t allow for this. Consider that you can outsource various aspects of the above listed to professionals, which may ultimately save you money, not to mention a lot of time.