In a world of global commerce, market research is simply essential. It allows companies to keep in touch with market trends and consumer behaviour, views and interests to ensure they are providing a competitive service or product. Findings and actionable insights help businesses make decisions about future direction and investment and a ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY) approach to market research can assist with both cost reduction as well as customer centricity.
To run a successful research project however, each stage must be carefully planned and a timeline created that the DIY researcher can ensure they have everything required to execute the process and meet the objectives. If you are considering going down the DIY route, I have outlined each stage and its considerations to help you on your way:
1. Research Objectives
What do you want to ask or find out?
The research must be focussed so that rich insights can be obtained and/or so that it can prove/disprove a hypothesis. Key objectives are approximately 5 bullet points and are the ‘main aims’ of the research. Objectives are usually submitted by the research stakeholders as a result of their interests/specific business concerns, but the researcher can also influence these to shape focus effectively.
2. Research Set-up
What type of research are you running?
It is important to identify what type of research you are running to ensure that it is set-up correctly from the beginning. Among other things this allows you to be clear with participants about the length of their required participation and its nature. There are various types of research initiative:
- Short-term Community - Usually over 3 months, participants are members of an online site with consistent activities and interaction with other members and moderators
- Long-term Research Panel - Participants are members of an online site and are contacted about specific research projects and tasks only
- Ad-hoc Project/s - A one off task, activity, a multi-method project or pop-up community, these typically last less than 3 months and can be run with a sample of participants from the above research types or a separate sample specific to the research
Each type of research requires a different level of set-up and preparation which needs to be considered at the outset in order to create accurate timelines. Communities typically require more input as the participants or members must remain engaged for the duration.
3. Research Design
How will you conduct the research?
Choosing the right methodology is fundamental to the success of the research. Using tasks that do not cater for the needs of your research objectives can leave you short of feedback when it comes to analysing and drawing conclusions.
Using a multi-method approach is usually the best way to proceed (though there are exceptions). Multi-method research has many benefits including: the ability to present questions and stimuli in various ways, the ability to collect both qual and quant data, to maximise participant engagement and avoid fatigue. Mix it up - the more creative the better!
4. Research Recruitment
Who do you want feedback from?
Write out your list of target participant criteria. This could be as general as a sample nationally representative of the population or it could be more specific such as shoppers from a certain store or of a certain brand. The recruitment screener can then be built from the list criteria. Effective recruitment is crucial to the validity of resulting insight. Consider your criteria carefully with specific relation to your research objectives and ensure all is covered in the screener.
Be clear about what is expected of your participants from the beginning – preparing participants for the volume of research tasks and number of associated communications they will receive in advance is key to reducing drop-out during. A few points to consider include:
- When is the research running from and to?
- How often are participants expected to take part, e.g. is it a one off 15 minute interview or a 5 day online discussion where they need to log in and take part for at least 10 minutes per day?
- What incentive will they receive for taking part, if any and does this vary depending on the volume of their responses and their completing every step of the research?
5. Research Moderation
Are you getting the 'WHY'?
Keeping an eye on participants and the feedback they are providing during the research is essential to achieving the necessary target response volume and subject matter to fulfil the research objectives.
If running qual research there may also be opportunities to engage further with participants via research task moderation. This is a useful tool as it allows the moderator to dive deeper into a topic or idea directly, to draw out further details including the ‘why’. I would always encourage prompting and probing where possible. The ‘why’ objective is arguably more important than the ‘what’ and unbiased moderation is the key.
Interacting with participants in this way also supports participant engagement. Direct contact makes them feel valued - they can see that someone is reading and responding to their feedback rather than it going into a black hole! Even just a thank you acknowledgement can go a long way.
6. Analysis and Reporting
What did you find out?
Analysing and reporting feedback is a skill that must not be underestimated. The insight report produced must contain a relevant summary of findings whilst also addressing the key research objectives - with lots of task data to sift through and evaluate this can be both time consuming and complex. In addition to keeping the research objectives in mind, it’s also important to keep that mind open in order to recognise any unexpected hidden gems emerging.
The final report should tell a story and flow naturally through the findings whilst highlighting important points from the research.
7. Actionable Insights
What to you do next?
Actionable insights must be included in the final report so that the business or department can use these as a basis to move forward with their decisions/direction. Interpreting findings to extrapolate actionable insights is an invaluable skill as these are the insights that ultimately guide the business through their next move.
If required, sourcing online software and/or research expertise can begin after the research objectives have been decided. There are a lot of products out there so be sure to do your research in this regard and get a feel for the software that best suits your needs.
Whilst the process of DIY market research may seem straightforward when broken down, the processes involved in each stage are intricate and skilful. The main aim is to turn your objectives into actionable insights and doing this successfully is reliant on the researcher effectively executing each and every step above.
Consult the experts - if you are not a seasoned market researcher you might like to seek support from an internal colleague or an outside agency during one or all of the research stages if, for example, you are doing something for the first time. DIY can be a money saver as long as it doesn’t cause you to compromise on your insights. Do the steps that you are comfortable with DIY and ask for help with the remainder. It will pay dividends and you will learn best practice from the outset.