What is market research?
Successful businesses have extensive knowledge of their customers and their competitors. Market research is the process of gathering information which will make you more aware of how the people you hope to sell to will react to your current or potential products and services.
Whether you are aware of it or not, as a business owner you conduct market research all the time. When you talk to customers about your business or check out the prices of your competitors you are conducting market research. Formalizing the process can produce a wealth of information about your products and services, your customers and the marketplace you operate in.
The level of complexity used in your market research campaign is up to you, as market research can cover a broad spectrum of activities. You can undertake simple activities that can be done on your own, such as creating a short customer satisfaction questionnaire or studying demographic data for your area, or undertake complex ones that require assistance from a professional market research firm. Regardless of the size of your market research budget, the time you have available or your level of experience, some form of market research is possible and it can help you to improve your business decisions.
Why conduct market research?
The goal of doing market research is to equip yourself with the information you need to make informed business decisions about start-up, innovation, growth and the 4 P's:
Price — Set a price based on popular profit margins, competitors' prices, financing options or the price a customer is willing to pay.
Placement — Decide where to set up and how to distribute a product. Compare the characteristics of different locations and the value of points of sale (retail, wholesale, online).
Promotion — Figure out how to best reach particular market segments (teens, families, students, professionals, etc.) in areas of advertising and publicity, social media, and branding.
Part of being prepared with market research is avoiding unpleasant surprises. Intuition and experience can be helpful at times, but research and facts often paint a more accurate picture of your market.
By conducting research on a regular basis, you can keep up with the dynamics of the economy and demography. You can also adjust to new regulations and technological breakthroughs.
When to conduct market research?
Market research is widely viewed as a component of the planning stage of a business. Indeed, market research is critical for new start-ups and should be a key element of any entrepreneur's business plan. Market research data feeds into a number of areas of the business plan, contributing to sections on:
Business plans and market research are not solely for new businesses. Accurate assessment of the market and development of an effective plan is critical to the success of both new and existing businesses.
Businesses contemplating significant changes, such as business expansion and relocation, are also wise to use market research to support their decisions.
The kind of information gathered through marketing research during the planning and growth stages of your business can also be very useful in its day-to-day operation. A regular flow of market research information can help you to maximize the potential of your current business activities and help you to create a roadmap for future growth.
How to conduct market research?
First, it is important to establish clear goals for the market research activity you will undertake. You need to make sure you have defined what you need to know and why.
Once you have established your goals, it is important develop a strategy and select techniques you will use to gather data. The two broad types of research you can use are primary and secondary research.
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