Market research is information about customers, competitors and emerging trends that helps companies make strategic planning decisions about marketing and selling their products and services.
Specifically, market research provides insight into:
- Customer needs
- Customer preferences
- Customer buying behaviours
- Customer price sensitivities
- Competitor strengths and weaknesses
- Competitor market share
- Emerging trends
Market research is fundamental to running a profitable business—it helps companies decide which market segments to focus on and provides the foundation for their marketing plans and sales plans.
Research a company generates on its own is called primary research. Research that can be purchased or found online is called secondary research. Most companies use a mix of both.
More about market research
Market research can seem complicated, time-consuming and potentially expensive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Many basic insights can be gathered by talking to sales and service people.
Many companies hold regular review meetings with their sales and service teams to gather their perspectives. Some give frontline staff questions to ask customers about their wants and needs, and possibly about competitors, as a way of gathering information during everyday interactions.
Market research can be more involved as well, using surveys, focus groups, “mystery shopping” (sending anonymous agents into stores to gather information about the sales experience) and more to gain additional market insights.
BDC's Malika Kazim writes about how entrepreneurs can conduct market research in her article, A practical guide to market research to help you make better decisions. She talks specifically about how to come up with a plan, some common mistakes in market research and tips on gathering insights about your business.