An Introduction to Market Research

A UK market research agency in London, Birmingham & South West, helping you understand what market research is, the benefits, pitfalls, and methods.

What is market research?

The ESOMAR definition: ‘Market research, which includes social and opinion research, is the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or, organisations using the statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied sciences to gain insight or support decision making.’

Or, in plain English: Market research is any organised effort to gather information about target markets, organisations or, customers.

Why do we need market research?

In today’s competitive business environment, the more knowledge a business has about its customers, the more likely it is to succeed. Market research is based on the principle that a relatively small sample of people can provide accurate opinion and weight on any given subject or issue that is representative of a much larger population or community. This data can then be applied to gauge public opinion and offer greater insight to perceived attitudes.

Research can operate as a means of communication between organisations and their stakeholders, whether they are consumers, other businesses or government. Market research that is properly structured can be used to deliver information that can provide insight into a target audience.

Forthcoming events in the Market Research industry

ESOMAR Congress 2024

8th - 11th September 2024

Athens, Greece

Annual Conference 2024

13th - 14th May 2024

Hilton London Wembley

MRS Annual Conference 2024

12th March 2024

Hilton London Bankside

Turquoise market research has benefited many leading firms

Research as a business tool

The main thing to remember is the importance of commissioning research designed so that it is fit for purpose – that is, it will do the job it is needed to do. Some jobs are big and strategic and some smaller and tactical. You need to know which you are commissioning, because from that will flow your research design, budget, time allocation etc.

Research is available as a tool to help a company/service/government make better, more informed decisions. The more research is embedded in the strategic plans of a company the better equipped it is to deal with the changing environment within which we operate.

What are the main uses of market research?

The four main uses of market research, by commercial organisations, in descending order of importance (in terms of spend) are:

  1. Monitoring performance, for example ad tracking, brand awareness, viewing figures, usage, customer satisfaction, mystery shopping.
  2. Finding things out, for example the size of a market, current usage patterns, and market opportunities.
  3. To test ideas and products, for example ad testing, pack testing, new product ideas and pricing research.
  4. To help create new products, ideas, campaigns etc.

Monitoring studies tend to be ongoing (as opposed to ad hoc) and they tend to be quantitative. A recent ESOMAR Global Market Research report shows this is the largest category of research spend, accounting for between one-third and half of all research dollars/pounds (depending on which category you assign some of the items to). As well as large-scale quantitative trackers, other approaches include automated and online measurements, mystery shopping, community panels, and social media research.

To find things out

This type of research is often called exploratory and is normally conducted ad hoc (i.e. not as part of an ongoing study). A wide range of research techniques are used for this purpose, for example: qualitative, quantitative, research communities, social media research, and semiotics. The specific aims of the research will often dictate, or at least suggest, a specific approach. For example, a market sizing study is typically going to require a large scale quantitative study with a careful sampling plan. By contrast, understanding the role of tea in a community’s life could be tackled with a wide range of approaches, from ethnography at one end of the spectrum to analysing loyalty card data at the other.

Testing ideas and products

This category includes ad testing, concept testing, product testing, much of NPD (new product development) research; it also includes testing whether a model or idea is true. This type of research is usually conducted ad hoc, utilising qualitative, quantitative, and/or research communities. Some of the newer brain and biometric techniques find their home in this category, in particular in ad testing. For example: fMRI, EEG, implicit association, eye-tracking, and facial coding.

Creating ideas and products

Although qualitative research, especially focus groups, have been used for many years to ‘ideate’ new products and services, this category of research has grown considerably since the arrival of social approaches, in particular research communities. Of the four categories listed here, creation is by far the smallest, but perhaps one of the most exciting.

The key benefits and potential pitfalls of market research

Market research methods

The type of information you want to gather about your customers, market or competitors will influence the research methods you choose. There are different ways to gather information (from primary or secondary sources) and different types of information to gather (quantitative and qualitative). You may use any combination of these research approaches to get the results you need.

Primary research

Primary research (or field research) gathers original information directly for your purpose, rather than being gathered from published sources. Primary research includes:

  • Surveys
  • Direct observations
  • Interviews and focus groups that are developed and conducted by you or your researcher

Primary research gives you control over the type of questions you ask and information you gather. Primary research results can be extremely valuable; however, they can also be much more time-consuming and costly to gather than secondary research. You may choose to use primary research methods once you have conducted secondary research to determine what information already exists.

Secondary research

Secondary research (or desk research) gathers existing information through available sources. Secondary research examples include:

  • Information on the internet
  • Existing market research results
  • Existing data from your own stock lists and customer database
  • Information from agencies such as industry bodies, government agencies, libraries and local councils.

Secondary research allows you to make the most of existing information about your market. However, it can be a challenge to find the information you really need.

You may use secondary research to get an initial understanding of your market. It is often faster to analyse than primary data because, in many cases, someone else may have already started analysing it. However, when using secondary research be careful how you interpret it, as it may have been collected for a different purpose or, from a market segment that isn’t relevant to your business. Also make sure that any secondary information isn’t out-of-date, as the market can change quickly and this will affect your results.

As well as understanding your market, you can also use secondary research to examine factors inside your business, such as sales figures and financial records.

When to use quantitative research and qualitative research

Quantitative and qualitative research defines the type of information you gather. Quantitative research gathers numerical data and often produces a lot of statistics. You can use this approach to identify the size of your market or to help you understand the demographics of your customers. Qualitative research gathers views and attitudes and you can use this approach to get a better understanding of your customers’ interests, needs and habits.

As a leading UK market research company with offices in London, EdinburghBirmingham and Barnstaple, Turquoise is commissioned on an ongoing basis by many new and established clients who integrate our research work with their business planning and strategy. If you are an existing client of ours or a business that is completely new to us, we would love to explore how our research services might deliver value to your firm.

If you are searching for the leading market research companies in London, Birmingham and the South West then you have come to the right place.

Turquoise Thinking Ltd is a highly experienced full-service market research agency serving clients all across the UK including Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset, Home Counties, East Midlands and West Midlands, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Wales, London, East Anglia, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and the whole of Scotland. As a cross-sector market research company our fieldworkers conduct research in any UK location and we regularly conduct focus groups and face to face interviews the length and breadth of the country.

Our other expert marketing research services include an in-house 15 seat CATi unit for conducting telephone interviewing and telephone depth interviews, hall testing, new product development research, product and pack testing, advertising awareness, audience and database segmentation, desk research and analysis, concept testing and ideation. For quantitative research with robust samples and often large scale surveys we use techniques such as on-street or house-to-house surveys, telephone research, postal self-complete surveys, email questionnaires, text message surveys or on-site ipad self-complete surveys. Where a qualitative approach is required, our methods include focus groups, creative and co-creation workshops, conflict groups, depth interviews and tele-depths.

Turquoise Thinking is the longest established and leading market research company in the South West, operating from our Devon head office since 1987 and with regional offices in London and Birmingham. We have excellent relationships with the best online panel providers in the world, scripting and hosting our own online surveys that we run against the panel. This access to international audiences opens up a whole variety of research opportunities for our clients. We specialise in web communities for qualitative research as well as online focus groups, instant chat and depth interviews. Our customer surveys and questionnaires are used by clients who want to improve their audience understanding to gain insights that will help with business critical decision making.