Choosing the right customer research methods

Accurate, well-planned customer research helps you make smart decisions about how to market and position your business. Choosing the right method of customer research will help you answer important questions about your customers.

Identify your research goals

To choose the right research methods, you need to clearly identify your research goals. Here is an example of some research goals you might set for your business:

We will:

  • find out our customers' needs
  • find out our customers' preferences
  • work out how to make our customers aware of our products and services
  • work out what motivates our customers to buy from us
  • work out how to improve or change our products or services to meet our customers' needs.

Find the research methods that meet your needs

After you identify what you need to know, then ask yourself which research methods will give you that information. This table shows you how to list the questions you need answered, and identifies the research methods you can use to answer them. Organise your questions under the 7 Ps of marketing that influence your business - product, price, promotion, place, people, process and physical evidence.

What we need to know Research method
Product
Why would customers buy our product instead of our competitors' products?
  • Consumer decision process research
  • Positioning research
  • Mystery shopping
How do our customers feel about the names of our products?
  • Brand testing
Will my customers want to buy this product?
  • Concept testing
How do our products compare with those of our competitors?
  • Mystery shopping
Do our products and services meet our customers' needs?
  • Customer satisfaction studies
How do our customers perceive our product relative to our competitors' products?
  • Positioning research
Price
How much are our customers willing to pay?
  • Consumer decision process research
How sensitive are our customers to price changes?
  • Price testing
How does our pricing compare to our competitors in terms of value for money?
  • Positioning research
Promotion
What are the best ways to promote our products and services?
  • Advertising and promotion research
What response am I likely to get from a certain promotion?
  • Advertising and promotion research
Where will our promotional dollars be best spent?
  • Advertising and promotion research
How effective are the different promotional activities?
  • Advertising and promotion research
What will motivate our customers to buy?
  • Consumer decision process research
Place
Is our place of business easy for customers to access?
  • Customer satisfaction studies
Are our customers able to access our business more easily than our competitors'?
  • Customer satisfaction studies
Do our current distributors sell our product in a quality manner?
  • Mystery shopping
Do people research us on the internet before coming to our store?
  • Consumer decision process research
Would people buy from us online?
  • Consumer decision process research
People
Do I have the right people with the right skills and attitudes?
  • Mystery shopping
  • Customer service audit
Do the salespeople selling our product provide adequate service?
  • Mystery shopping
  • Customer satisfaction studies
  • Customer service audit
Do our salespeople require customer service or product training?
  • Customer satisfaction studies
  • Customer service audit
Process
Do our customers find it easy to do business with us?
  • Customer satisfaction studies
  • Customer service audit
Physical evidence
Do our customers like the layout of our stores?

How recognisable is our brand?
  • Customer satisfaction studies
  • Customer service audit

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