How to use data collection for marketing research

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As a marketer, you know that creating a custom experience for your clients is the key to success because customers prefer to engage with and buy from companies that understand their preferences and try to meet their needs. This means that you have to conduct regular market researches, to find out your audience’s desires and build your strategy accordingly.

Needless to say, data plays a crucial role when it comes to making business decisions because it is the base that your strategy should rely on. The question is not whether you should be collecting data, but what kind of data is relevant and how to integrate it into your initiatives and daily activities, to build a unique customer journey.

Data collection is generally a laborious process, and when done for market research purposes, things are slightly different. First, you need to establish what it is that you want to find out when conducting research, and, according to your goals, decide if you are going to rely on qualitative or quantitative data. Keep in mind that the success of the research depends on the relevance and integrity of the information collected and analyzed.

There are several data collection methods you can choose from, but be sure to pick according to your particular needs. To begin with, you need to decide if you are going to rely on secondary data – information that has already been collected by third parties such as dedicated research agencies), or you want to get primary data – information gathered specifically to answer your particular purpose.
For effective results, you should build your own qualitative research, and that is where the challenges may appear.

What to do before starting to gather data?

Before you start the research per se, there are some other things to check off your planning list:
Set concrete goals. This is the first thing you need to do once you have decided it is time to conduct market research. Run a focus group with people in your company, such as sales department members, top management team, project managers, or product owners, to find out what their expectations are and how the research could help them.
Choose the data collection method. This is probably the most important decision when it comes to researches because it could make or break the entire process. The chosen method must be relevant and appropriate for your company and business context.
Get permission. Make sure the people whose answers you will be using are aware that they are participating in a survey and the information they give you will be then analyzed. Obtain their written consent, if necessary.
Respect people’s privacy. When gathering data from customers, you need to show them that their personal information is protected. Inform them about security and confidentiality, and tell them straight away if, for instance, anonymity will be limited.
Use performing data collection tools. Managing and analyzing big data is not easy, especially without the right technical solutions. Use a piece of software that allows the integration of multiple sources, can be accessed by your people in charge of the research in the field, performs effective analysis and has multiple visualization options.

Where can you get your data from?

Surveys are probably the most popular data collection method because they are also cost-effective and efficient. This research method allows you to create a certain path for participants, guide them through the feedback process and thus obtain particular information that you know is useful for your business strategy. Besides that, surveys can be anonymous, so they protect the confidentiality, for those who are concerned about it.
To build the survey, distribute it and then centralize and analyze the data, you can use an automated tool. However, make sure the information is analyzed in context, to avoid drawing wrongful conclusions.
Industry studies are also quite helpful, but keep in mind they are listed as secondary data, so you will get general information about certain industries or markets relevant for your research. These are very important for strategy building or benchmarking, but remember to always correlate them with other primary data conclusions.
Direct interactions with customers will definitely give you the most relevant insights as far as your target audiences are concerned. It may not represent quantitative data, but it is very important to actually find out direct, unaltered feedback from those who are using or intend to use your products or services. Sales accounts and consultants should always try to get information from people they interact with, especially if they work in the field and they meet prospects face-to-face, on a daily basis.
Observations are another type of qualitative market research method, and it means simply observing how clients or potential clients behave in a natural setting. For instance, if you run a physical store, you can see how people act when they enter your shop. Are they aiming for a certain product? Do they visit multiple areas to evaluate the offer and make an informed decision? Are they influenced by shelf share or display? Observations can happen both offline, in brick-and-mortar shops, but also online, when people use technology to reach for your products or services.
This will allow you to gather firsthand data about their behavior and help you to optimize your store design, online campaigns, custom offers and others.

Data is an insatiable resource that you must use if you want your business to succeed. Dealing with big data can be intimidating, but rest assured nowadays technology comes to aid: you can use a custom BI and analytics solution that will help you make sense of information and transform it into actionable insight, regardless of the industry or size of your company.
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