5 Market Research Methods to Help Your Small Business

March 27, 2019

Market research methods

In the business world, information is gold. Having the right information at hand and knowing how to interpret it can help your business in so many ways. Every decision you make, as an entrepreneur, should be backed up by relevant data. 

This being said, a well-executed market research can tell you a lot about competitors, customer behaviour and needs, market trends, customer satisfaction, reviews on products and services, and so much more. 

All businesses must learn from data, and quickly adapt to current trends, so they continue to thrive. But how do you perform a market research? 

As it turns out, there are many market research methods to help you with that quest. Some of them are used for decades, others have come together with the digital revolution, yet are no less effective.

Below, we will elaborate on the different types of market research you can turn to, depending on your goals and budget.

Primary Market Research

Primary market research is a research conducted by the marketing department in your company. However, if you don’t have a full-time marketing team, it can also be outsourced to a third-party. This type of research is also called ‘field research’ because you’re gathering data yourself.

Secondary Market Research

Secondary market research is when you are using an already existing data published by other companies, government agencies, NGOs, etc. This is why it’s also called ‘desk research’ – you don’t actually do the research. While it can be useful, it’s not very helpful to small businesses that need real-time information matching the current market trends.

Most Common Market Research Techniques

Focus Groups

This method requires a group of carefully targeted people and a moderator who guides the discussion by asking previously determined questions that serve the end purpose.

The room where they sit sometimes has a one-way mirror wall and observes take notes from the other side. Although, these days, with the use of modern technology a lot of focus groups take place virtually.

Focus groups are a great way to get feedback on products or services, advertisements and similar.


Unlike the focus group method, which involved a group of people, interviews are held one-on-one – just the interviewer and the responder. This is a more personal approach that can be both scripted or free-flowing. However, the information gathered from interviews depends greatly on the quality of questions and the ability of the interviewer to scratch beneath the surface.

It is a time-consuming method, and often expensive, that is usually used when more in-depth or expert information is needed


This is a great way to learn about actual, natural behaviour. The observational research can be done in two ways: without any interaction or with some limited level of interaction with the subject being observed. It usually involves watching and analysing tons of video footage.

The observational method comes in handy when testing a prototype, a new website, in-store behaviour and similar. It is a lengthy and complex process.


Probably the most widely used method of all – surveys. That’s probably due to the fact that they come in all forms, shapes and sizes. From the subtle one-question surveys Facebook uses randomly, to the feedback card in restaurants and the ever-borning telephone surveys no one asked for. 

Surveys are great because they allow gathering data from a large number of people. They are best used for researching customer satisfaction, pricing or other quantitative measurables. Questions can be open or close-ended and the quality of the answers depends greatly on them.

Experiments and Field Trials 

This might sound like a really scientific method, and it actually is, but it can also be used in more simplified ways. For example, if you want to find out which one of two landing pages has better conversion rates, you can do an A/B test. Basically, set up two different or two very similar landing pages, then record and measure the results.


Deciding if you should go with primary or secondary market research depends largely on you budget and time. Moreover, if you opt to conduct your own research, the methods you choose should also reflect your goals. That being said, you can always put these methods to work in an innovative, modern way.

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