Consumer trends are shifting more quickly than ever.

And businesses are shifting with them, focusing on keeping aligned with their consumers. After all, it’s all about the customer.

But what implications does this have for brands?

To future proof your business and continue to stay relevant, you need access to learnings and insights about your consumers and the greater market. 

This is where consumer market research comes in.

What is Consumer Market Research?

Consumer market research is the overall study of the target consumer in a particular industry. Brand marketers turn to consumer market research to gain business intelligence in three main areas:

  • Customers (Habits, needs, desires, pain points, overall sentiment)
  • Their company and products (Feelings about their overall brand and products)
  • Competitors (What’s working for them, strategies, etc.)

Types of Consumer Market Research

There are two types of consumer market research:

  1. Primary research
  2. Secondary research

Primary research involves actively collecting information and data. The research can be further divided into quantitative research, such as surveys, charts, and statistics, or qualitative research, which are ideas, feelings, focus groups, and interviews.

Secondary research is working with aggregate data that already exists and information that’s already out there, such as looking at product reviews. 

Why Use Consumer Market Research?

Brands can use insights gathered from their consumers in several different ways. Here are some of the most common use cases.

  • Brand Research – Managing your company’s brand/identity, including the images, narratives, and characteristics that people associate with it. This can include your consumers’ advocacy, awareness, loyalty, and perceptions, as well as your brand’s penetration, positioning, and value.
  • Product development – Developing new products is made easier by incorporating feedback from your target consumers. It allows you to research and test the product, positioning, packaging, messaging, and more. 
  • Understanding audiences – Segmenting specific audiences to understand their motivations, needs, pain points, and how to best approach them and speak to them. 
  • Tracking brand sentiment – Tracking brand sentiment helps you understand how your target audience feels about your brand, what differentiates you from your competitors, and the overall trends in the industry, such as pricing, that can determine where opportunities lie.
  • Testing ad campaigns Test creative from your ad campaigns with consumer market research to see what resonates with your audience and creates the desired impact.
  • Measuring satisfaction – Consumer market research can measure customer satisfaction and overall loyalty to your brand.
  • Competitive analysis – Assess competitive brands’ strengths and weaknesses and analyze consumer perception.
  • Usability testing – Observe how consumers use your product in real-time, or journey testing on a website or application.

Consumer Market Research Best Practices

Consumer market research is a critical tool in a marketer’s arsenal for a variety of objectives. However, success hinges on a set of best practices. By following these best practices, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of consumer market research and further your marketing strategy.

Pre-qualify Your Consumers/Define Your Scope

Make sure you are speaking to the right consumers for your study by screening them first. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do they use your product category? 
  • Do they use your brand or a competitor brand? 
  • Do they shop at a particular retailer? 
  • Do they fit the lifestyle/attitudes of your consumer target? 
  • Is your product premium or casual?

You should ensure you are talking to consumers who fit your target audience. If not, your efforts won’t yield many benefits.

Be Clear About Your Purpose

You should know ahead of time what you want to learn from the study and how the data will support your business decisions. To do this, form some hypotheses that the study will be designed to prove/disprove, and specific questions should be built around that purpose.

Work Backward From Business Issue to Survey Question

The best way to plan out consumer market research and find success is to work backward from the issue itself to the survey questions. For example:

  1. What decision are you trying to make, or what issue or knowledge gap in your business are you trying to solve?
  2. What consumer data would help address that issue or inform that decision?
  3. What survey questions would best help to obtain that consumer data?

Keep it Simple

Keeping your surveys simple helps obtain relevant information about your brand from your consumers and avoids collecting potentially misleading data. Here’s how to keep surveys as simple as possible:

  • Ask consumers clear and concise questions designed to specifically obtain the information that is relevant to your brand. 
  • Do not ask leading questions that push consumer response in a certain direction. 
  • Allow for “Neutral” and “Does not apply” answer choices.
  • A single survey should be addressing three research goals at most to ensure your survey is focused and not overwhelming. Keep to no more than 30 questions total.

Choose An Appropriate Structure or Format For Each Question

The answer scales and options you provide to consumers in your survey are very important and will impact the data you receive. 

  • Know when to ask “Select one” vs. “Select all that apply,” or when to use a scale.
  • Randomize answers when appropriate.
  • Keep answer choices balanced and not lopsided.
  • Use comprehensive answer choices and avoid overlapping.
  • Make sure the answer choices you provide fit with the question asked.
  • Use open-ended questions sparingly.

Preview and Test Your Survey

You’ll want to ensure that the survey you put out reflects your initial goals. Previewing your survey beforehand helps avoid any potential mistakes and allows you to check that your survey is logical, engaging, and not too overwhelming. 

You should also have someone else in your organization test your survey for a second opinion.

Ensure You Have a Sufficient Sample Size

Make sure you have a sufficient sample size for your data to be readable and representative. It can be a serious mistake to make crucial business decisions based on data that might not be meaningful due to the sample size.

As a rule of thumb, the more important the business decision you’re making based on this data, the higher the threshold. 

Any differences in the data you highlight should not be within the margin of error—too small to be considered a meaningful difference. A difference of 5% or less may be within the margin of error, especially if you do not have a considerable sample size.

Segment Your Results for Deeper Insights

Your total sample results are only part of the story! 

Some of the most meaningful survey results can be found by splitting your survey results. 

For example:

  • Male/female
  • Different age ranges 
  • Users of your product vs. your competitor product 
  • First-time parents vs. parents with multiple children

Achieving deeper and more valuable insights starts with segmenting the results of your overall surveys. 

How To Perform Consumer Market Research

Consumer market research can take on many different forms, such as:

  • Focus groups
  • In-depth interviews
  • Message boards
  • Surveys 
  • Behavioral observations (purchase activity, website activity, etc.)
  • Applied consumer neuroscience (eye-tracking, facial coding, etc.)
  • Social media listening

Although some larger brands have internal research teams, many brands turn to a market research agency to conduct their consumer market research. Working with a research firm is usually done on a project basis. A number of firms specialize in consumer market research, including:

  • IPSOS
  • Nielsen
  • Kantar
  • Qualtrics
  • Gartner
  • IRi
  • Radius
  • Dynata
  • GFK

After reaching out to a research firm, you’ll need to share your objectives with them. The firm needs to know what you’re looking to learn and who your consumer market is. The research firm will then recruit people, build the necessary surveys, conduct research, collect the data, analyze, and then produce the results you’re seeking. Typically, this process takes between six and eight weeks. This timeline can be a hindrance since brands typically need answers fast, and starting from scratch for every study can be inefficient. 

One alternative to gain continuity of results and speed is creating a dedicated panel. Dedicated panels also help reveal trends, and because the same set is followed across studies, it can provide deeper understanding and connected learnings. However, this can mean a larger upfront investment with a research firm to recruit and qualify panel members as well as more ongoing costs to “maintain” the panel. 

The challenge with consumer panels is providing ongoing engagement and occupying the members to give them a reason to keep coming back between studies, which can be months apart. Just like in baseball, panel members need to be kept warm on the bench in between studies.

How Vesta Can Help With Consumer Market Research 

Another alternative to many of the drawbacks and challenges that come with using research firms for consumer market research is the Vesta platform.

With your Vesta online brand community, you have a consumer panel ready to go at all times, meaning there’s no time needed for recruiting. Research needs arise constantly, and you need to be able to deliver results on a dime. Vesta delivers the speed that research firms, unfortunately, can’t provide. 

There’s also the issue of engagement. When a research firm forms a panel, the period between surveys requires a certain level of engagement to avoid panel decay. The Vesta platform has activities, discussions, and quick offers to keep consumers interested and engaged, ensuring they’re always available when insights are needed. 

Vesta also provides a ton of flexibility, with many different types of research tools, from polls for quick and fun insights to in-depth qualitative research in the form of focus groups and interviews. Vesta also offers applied consumer neuroscience options, such as eye-tracking and facial coding, to target non-conscious decision-making. 

We know that consumer market research provides a ton of value to marketers. That’s why we’re here to help. 

Consumer Market Research Can Greatly Impact Your Marketing Efforts 

The power of consumer market research can’t be overstated. In a world where consumers have more control than ever, understanding what makes them tick can provide you with a considerable edge over your competitors. 

Consumer market research helps brands in nearly every aspect of their business, from overall product development to the intricacies of ad creative. 

While it might not be a magic pill, consumer market research can help you develop an effective marketing strategy and give you unparalleled insights into your target market. 

Questions About Consumer Market Research?

The Vesta team is here to answer any questions you have, whether you’re looking for more information on consumer market research or how the Vesta platform can help. Reach out to us. We’re always here to help.