Market research is an industry term referring to studies of customers, marketplaces, trends, and even economics. For new product practitioners and product managers, market research is a crucial step in the process of designing and developing products and services. On a macro-basis, we might think of general fads and trends as “market research” in the formal sense. At a company- or product-level, we consider customer insights to guide product development.
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Primary Forms of Market Research
Traditionally, market research is divided into two categories: qualitative and quantitative. In Qualitative Market Research, we seek opinions and beliefs that draw customer needs from an emotional perspective. In Quantitative Market Research, we gather objective data for statistical analysis, guiding pricing and sales strategies.
Qualitative Market Research
Customer insights, for brands and specific product design work, tend to be more qualitative in nature. Many companies convene lead user panels to regularly interact with and gauge product use with consumers. These panels involve groups of customers that are actively involved in using a product and they are driven to improve the product because it serves to benefit them.
For example, gathering a lead user panel to evaluate new product features is a common purpose of market research. Suppose you manufacture gardening tools. Your lead user panel consists of Master Gardeners in a semi-tropical zone, like southern Alabama and Florida. You might present different combinations of gardening tools to bundle into a spring planting kit – a handheld spade and trowel along with a sturdy pair of gloves. You will investigate reactions to the bundle from the consumer panel.
Quantitative Market Research
While qualitative market research points the product development effort in the right direction, product designers and engineers need specifications to build the product. Quantitative market research supplements the “why” of qualitative market research with a set of measures and constraints that define “what” and “how”. Examples of quantitative market research include surveys, market share, and failure rates. Often, qualitative market research uses statistics to analyze customer and market data in a detailed and objective way.
Other Market Research Tools
Market research is a very broad field with numerous tools available to the product development professional. As in all research, no single assessment provides enough data and information to draw actionable conclusions. Instead, a combination of market research and design thinking tools will help a product development team identify opportunities for ideas and concepts that will benefit their customers.
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