Different types of Market Research (part 1)Desk Research
With simply an internet connection and a computer, you have far more data at your disposal than ever before. It is possible to perform a huge amount of your market research online, simply by using a search engine to find your competitors. This does have a weakness, in that some sites are “optimised” for Google and other search engines, and as such those that appear to be main potential competitors may just have a slick image for the internet. Likewise, you may have some very strong competitors who have not fully embraced the internet.
Your potential competitors websites are only one area of internet research that you can perform. There are also directory sites, industry websites, and potentially discussion forums that you can use to gain more information about the sector and those that operate within it.
Trade magazines and journals are a great resource for anyone looking to break into a sector that is new to them. They will often have commentary from some of the leading figures within the industry, which can provide you with further avenues to research.
Also, there is a very rough estimate you can make of the health of a sector, simply by looking at the amount of advertising that is placed in these journals. Ultimately, advertisers will only pay for their adverts to be printed if there is a willing market to purchase the goods or services. Therefore, if there appears to be a buoyant market for advertising, this normally reflects well on the industry itself. The nature of the journal can also supplement this information. If it is a long standing journal, perhaps with a range of competition, and still sold in newsagents, this is a stronger sign than a journal in an industry which doesn’t have established journal and cannot gather sufficient circulation to justify a prime place on a newsagents shelf.
Walking the Streets
Although in the literal sense this task is more relevant for retail and food operations, there is a wider application of this applicable to all sectors. Take a wander down some local High Streets, visit some industry networking events, drive around local industrial estates; any time that you get outside and see what is actually happening in the world is of huge benefit when researching the competition. You might even have the opportunity to start a conversation with the right person, who might give you some nuggets of information about the local economy or the sector.
Questionnaires and Footfall Analysis
A well-designed questionnaire will allow you to find out information from your target market. I would always suggest that questionnaires are multiple choice, and as brief as possible so that you remove any objections to completing them.
Questionnaires can be posted, face to face, or over the telephone. When performed face to face they can be conducted as part of your local “walking the streets”, and they will allow you to gauge the demographic of your target market (this is particularly important for food and beverage or retail businesses). Footfall analysis is another key tool, which can allow you to project the likely target market simply by counting the number of pedestrians in a particular area.
For footfall analysis to be accurate, you need to perform the checking on a variety of days and times, and also ensure that your projected conversion (i.e. footfall vs visitor rate) is reasonably accurate. This can be measured by observing your competitions footfall and visitor rate.
Performing footfall analysis is extremely simple, and just requires a notepad, a clicker, warm clothing and patience!