Customer insights are solid gold. They unlock the door to commercial innovation, help you understand the latent needs of your target audience, and spark ideas for future products. It would be hard for any marketer to dispute the value of market research. What we are going to dispute is the misconception that market research has to be expensive.
If you have the budget for it, there is nothing wrong with investing in big data, qualitative customer insights interviews, market reports, and high-powered consultants. All of these tools are very effective at gathering and aggregating customer insights. When an advertising agency harnesses these insights to a creative campaign, they can have a huge impact.
But those aren’t the only ways to perform market research. Entrepreneurs, small- and medium-sized business owners, scrappy startups, and even frugal corporate heavyweights have plenty of options to collect remarkably accurate market research using lean methodology that does more with less. These four unconventional and creative ways to perform market research are as inexpensive as they are efficient. The best part is, they also yield near immediate results so you can go to market faster.
Social Media for Market Research
Social media isn’t usually considered a market research tool, but don’t let that fool you. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are mini focus groups that allow you to read (and respond to) customer comments, giving you a real-time view into the cause-and-effects that actually influence customer behavior. You can also introduce questions about possible new features or products into your forum, share surveys and polls, and even reach out to customers for one-on-one feedback about their experience. All for free.
Because many websites also use social media to enable single sign on customer login, social platforms have a wealth of data about where else your customers are shopping and socializing. While you may not be able to see the full picture or harness the full depth of that information without partnering (or paying) those platforms directly, you can conduct your own qualitative research by looking at what your top users and social advocates are doing online. We know it may sound a little old fashioned or labor intensive, so partnering with a digital marketing agency can make your life easier … but go ahead and do a little Facebook stalking, see what you can learn, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to learn more from time to time.
If you want to enjoy similar benefits but take some of the legwork out of trolling social media sites for nuggets of information, research firm Harris Interactive’s new platform built for the modern digital marketing agency, Research Livestreaming, may be just the tool you were looking for. This tool offers a unique view into both your customers’ social media activity and more direct customer feedback. Customers opt in by linking their social media sites to the Research Livestreaming platform and then participating in surveys, polls, and discussions regarding various experiences and products. Customers are rewarded for their insights with monetary gift certificates or merchandise.
The tool provides a much more holistic picture into the market’s behavior and how social actions correspond to real actions. Because users also choose to participate in the Research Livestreaming platform, you don’t need to worry about being perceived as pushy or soliciting unwelcome information. The downside is that you can’t completely control the users you get to interact with. Although these individuals are all willing to share information, you aren’t receiving information from customers who had a bad experience or those who may be less inclined to share. In reality, you aren’t receiving customer information at all. There’s no guarantee that participating in Research Livestreaming is representative of your customer segment. That said, because users choose how and where to participate on the platform, it’s safe to assume that respondents are self-selecting into experiences they would engage with in the wild and your digital marketing agency can help interpret results into actionable strategy. In this way, Research Livestreaming provides exceptional directional insight into customer behavior and broad market temperature.
If you crave more granular information, consider using simple user testing software such as usertesting.com. This is one of our favorite customer research tools to gain insight into task completion and user experience functionality. Your content marketing agency can help you prepare product prototypes, show customers your actual homepage, or ask them to imagine themselves in a situation and complete a task such as purchasing a product or searching for information. Each testing session is recorded, so you’ll be able to watch (and listen to users comment on) their experience every step of the way.
User testing provides a very narrow, but accurate view into market behavior. This can be invaluable when preparing for a product launch or revamping your online presence. Like Research Lifestreaming, you are somewhat limited by who signs up to participate on usertesting.com. It’s important to remember that while lean market research doesn’t give you an infallible look at customer behavior, it’s often faster and easier to collect. Responses from user testing are usually available within hours, rather than months (as is the case with traditional market research). With these tools, you can supercharge your testing and iteration process to meet your customers’ needs faster.
And don’t forget about adding a customer survey to your homepage. You can ask simple questions like why they came to your site, or more broad questions like what they like or dislike your brand. Give them the option to respond with simple yes/no or radio button answers, or add their own verbatims. Survey creation software such as Qualaroo is easy to implement with a few clicks of a button, so everyone from a seasoned digital marketing agency to the most non-tech savvy companies can take advantage of this tool.
No matter how you choose to collect market research, the most important element is that you are connecting and engaging with your customers. How you do it – is just the details.