What is Customer Research?

What is Customer Research?

Customer research helps brands identify potential or current customer segments, needs, and behaviors. It’s conducted as part of market research, user research, or design research and always focuses on researching customers of a specific brand or product to identify unmet customer needs and/or opportunities for business growth.

Customer research about simple demographics of an existing or potential customer group (like age, gender, and income level) is vital to understand a product’s target audience. However, research should also seek to understand various behaviors and motivators, which give insights about the product’s use and potential. The goal of customer research is to expose clear details about who is—or will be—using a product as well as the reasons behind their doing so and how they go about using it.

Customer research is essential to product development and marketing. It can be conducted through a variety of methods, including interviews, surveys, focus groups, desk research, and ethnographic field studies. By exploring customer feedback online, in reviews, forums, and on social media, businesses can get a better sense of what customers want and need from their products.

While customer research is valuable and often conducted as part of the design process, it’s also important for other departments within an organization to take part in this research as well. After all, by understanding the needs and wants of your target market, you’re able to better focus your marketing campaigns – and in turn, reach a larger audience more effectively. Additionally, conducting customer research as part of concept development can help identify opportunities for future products, services, or features – essentially giving you a head start on the competition. In any case, keeping the end users in clear sight long before the end of any design phase is an essential ingredient in ensuring the success of your company.

Types of Customer Research

When it comes to customer market research, there are four main categories it can be broken down into: primary, secondary, quantitative and qualitative. All four types are complementary and can be used together to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your customer. Keep reading for customer research examples and more information on which type would be best suited for your specific needs.

1. Primary Customer Research

Primary research is defined as any type of research that you conduct directly with your target customers. The advantages of this type of research are that you can target it to groups or segments of your customers and specifically tailor the content to your research needs. This method is often used by businesses in the early stages of product development, as it allows them to get feedback and direction from their target market regarding what they want or need from a product or service.

Online surveys. Increasingly popular and relatively low cost, online surveys are widely used by retailers to capture insights from existing and potential customers. You can conduct them using your own customer database, or you can use third-party consumer survey panels that include your customers. If you use a consumer research panel, you will have to include a question to identify your shoppers.

Either way, online surveys are a great way to get feedback from your customers about their shopping experiences, what they like and don’t like about your products, and what they would like to see in the future.

Telephone interviews. While phone surveys provide faster feedback than mail surveys, their effectiveness will be limited by the number of available phone numbers. This is particularly true for cell phone numbers, which can’t be solicited without permission. Additionally, potential customers are often wary of being called and may give short answers.

Face-to-face surveys (often store exit interviews). Personal interviews conducted face-to-face (often as the customer exists the store) can be on the more expensive side, but they can also provide detailed insights from your customers. They require coordination with Store Operations, which might require more up-front time for planning.

Focus groups. Focus groups bring together a small group of consumers to discuss their opinions about products, brands, shopping and other relevant subjects. You might think of them as customer panel research. They’re a good way to get a sense of customer preferences and attitudes. However, because a focus group involves only a small number of customers, it can be challenging to apply the results to your entire customer base.

Customer quizzes. Another increasingly popular survey tactic is to place a short pop-up survey on your website. This can help confirm a hypothesis you have about your target market or help define a product issue. Remember to keep it short — pop-up surveys are most successful when you stick to one question.

2. Secondary Customer Research

Secondary research is a type of research that analyzes consumer attitudes, product and brand preferences, media consumption habits and demographic and lifestyle characteristics. It’s usually based on large research projects conducted on a national level, which means that the results can be applied to your customer base. Additionally, since the same research results can be purchased by several companies, the cost of performing secondary research can be less expensive. These reports are useful for tracking consumer trends and providing comparisons.

However, they don’t provide the same level of actionable insights on your customers as primary research, which is designed to find the “why” of a purchase and predict what could happen in the future.

3. Quantitative Customer Research

There are two main types of customer research: qualitative and quantitative. Quantitative research provides statistical information on your customers, such as their age, where they shop, and whether they are aware of your brand. The most common tool used for quantitative research today is online surveys. The goal is to reach enough customers to make the results statistically reliable so you can project them across your entire customer base and have confidence in the results.

A market research specialist is key for creating surveys that will garner the most helpful and accurate feedback from respondents. They can help with question wording, type of scales to use, length of the survey, and other important attributes. They can also aid in determining the number of surveys to deploy based on expected response. Having a market research specialist on your team will save you time and energy while also providing you with more reliable data!

4. Qualitative Customer Research

Qualitative research examines people’s feelings and attitudes towards your product or service, and what motivates them. Focus groups are the most common tool used for qualitative research – these are more-in-depth interviews that are open-ended and have a smaller number of participants than quantitative research. While the interviews provide in-depth information, the results should be used directionally since they aren’t broad enough to project across your entire customer base. However, they can be useful in identifying trends and specific issues that you can then address.

Utilizing a professional moderator for qualitative research is a wise decision. This person can help keep the conversation flowing and on track, as well as ensure that all participants have been heard and not dominated by a few people. Not only does this help maintain the conversation, but it also allows for different perspectives to be shared and recorded. Customer research helps brands identify potential or current customer segments, needs, and behaviors. We hope this blog post has helped you understand the importance of customer research and how it can be used by brands to improve products and services. If you have any other questions or concerns about customer research, please contact us anytime at Thank you for reading, we are always excited when one of our posts can provide useful information on a topic like this

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