Market research process

The market research process involves researching your customers, competitors, industry and market environment. You can research each of these separately, and then combine the results to get an overall view of where your business fits in the market.

Undertaking your own market research is generally more cost-effective than hiring someone else to do it for you. It can also help you build stronger relationships with your customers, and learn valuable market research skills and knowledge. However, conducting your own market research can be time-consuming and may require specialised skills to make informed judgements and objective recommendations.

If you plan to conduct your own market research, consider these important steps.

Making an initial investigation

Before you start researching your market, conduct an initial investigation to work out what kind of information you need and what is available and trustworthy. You need to check that you have enough sources to get useful information. If not, you may need to reconsider your market research objectives. Alternatively, you may find there is a lot of information already available to you, so you can reduce the scope of your research to save time and money.

Planning your market research

Your initial investigation will help you work out what methods and sources you will need to use to meet your objectives. You may choose to combine different research approaches to gather the right information.

You should also consider how much time and money you have to conduct your market research and if your staff will be able to help. This will allow you to work out how in-depth and comprehensive your research will be. It will also impact on the methods that you use.

Collecting the data

Once you have a clear plan for your research, you can start collecting data. Make sure you monitor your budget carefully as you go along – don't let your quest for information exceed your budget.

To get the most out of your market research, make sure all the information you collect is as detailed and complete as possible. Incomplete data can produce misleading or irrelevant results.

Processing the data

Keep your research objectives in mind when you process your data. Coming up with some practical ways to process the information and data you have uncovered will make it easier later on to reach conclusions. These may include:

  • using tables to list and group your information
  • identifying major trends and themes as well as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • writing a sentence for every major point you uncover (to help you gain an accurate picture of what the key points and opinions are), and grouping core themes together.

Interpreting the data

Interpreting or analysing the results you have gained is a key step to getting the most from your market research. At this point you are aiming to get a thorough understanding of what your research is saying – you may get some unexpected results. Be open with your interpretation and try not to be influenced by your bias.

As you review your information and start to interpret what it means for you, consider whether you have gathered enough data to give you conclusive results. You may need to do further research to reach a conclusion.

Reaching conclusions

Your data analysis provides the basis for drawing conclusions. Ultimately, market research provides information that reduces risk and uncertainty and increases your chance of business success. The final conclusions should meet your initial objectives; consider what options you have discovered in your analysis to best meet your larger business objectives.

To reach conclusions about your research:

  • examine the major themes and trends
  • review the tables you created when processing your data and refer to your objectives to be sure you have enough information to reach informed conclusions
  • assess and separately list the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you have identified
  • look for gaps in your information that make it difficult to draw a definitive conclusion from the results of your research
  • review your initial research plan and consider what you need to change to provide more comprehensive results.

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