As we discussed in Part III – Qualitative Market Research, we know that people sometimes get very nervous about the idea of doing market research. (If you haven't read Part III, be sure to take a moment and do so.) If you've read Part III, you are probably saying, 'Okay, I can do those things but quantitative research sounds too much like Quantum Theory ... no can do.'
While it is true that market research can be very complex and involve substantial statistical analysis, it's also possible to gather information systematically but more simply and gain good marketing intelligence that you can put to practical use. In this article we will look at some quantitative methods for gathering market information.
In general, quantitative market research involves some type of data gathering or the development of some method of measuring and analysing marketing information. One of the best starting places for quantitative market research is the collection of demographic data.
Demographic information is usually defined as age, gender, race, income, marital status, geographic residence, work residence, household data and so on. There are several ways to gather this data, large group data gleaned from your country's census or small group data gathered from your customer base.
Unique Customer Database Development
It is very, very, (are you getting this?) very important to know who your customers are. You can obtain this information by asking for it and making it worthwhile for your site users to provide the information to you. How do you do it?
Make it easy for people to register to get something from your site, name and email address – that's enough for you to know who's visiting and be able to contact them again. However, if you can, offer something worthwhile in exchange for a more complete set of registration information. Give users a discount in exchange for learning age range, income range, marital status, geographic location, how they found your site, occupation and so on.
Customer Satisfaction Survey:
Once again, use an incentive to get feedback from your purchasers. In this situation, you will be able to tie the type and amount of purchase and type of payment mechanism to other demographic data.
Aggregate Demographic Information
Once you know something about your customers or you have established a demographic group as your intended customers, tweens in the UK from families with income over for example, it's often useful to understand what the market potential is by determining the number of people in your market segment. Here are the sites to go to for census data.
The government of the UK provides a statistical data site that provides demographic information across many categories of inquiry and allows you to create your own data tables as well. Go to http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ to access the information.
Although the U.S. Census publishes census data in aggregate form, you will need specific information that is compiled for your unique needs. The best way to obtain that information is through the Factfinder site, www.factfinder.census.gov.
Canada provides both raw census data as well as tabulated data in many forms. Go to http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census01/home/index.cfm to access the information.
Australia's Bureau of Statistics' website is a storehouse of demographic information. Go to www.abs.gov.au to access the data.
You are in a unique position to discover customised information from your customers through formal surveys. Online traders have a strong advantage over bricks and mortar retailers who have great difficulty enticing customers to fill out and return survey forms or respond to surveys by telephone. Web users, on the other hand, are much more likely to provide information when asked. And, you already have an audience of website users to draw into your data gathering efforts.
The subject of constructing surveys is an enormous field of study, much too complex to even begin to discuss in this article. Formal surveys should be carefully designed with questions tested for validity (Does each question elicit a response that answers the research question?) and reliability (Will the question be answered in a consistent way when asked by different surveyors at different times under different circumstances. Does this mean that formal surveys are out of the question as a tool for you unless you can afford the services of a survey design group? Not necessarily.
If you decide to conduct a survey on your site, try these strategies to improve the survey's response rate and validity:
- Keep the length to the equivalent of one page or less
- Use a dynamic format if possible so the survey adapts to the survey taker
- Write as clearly as possible
- Offer confidentiality
- Offer an incentive for completion
- Make the survey aesthetically pleasing.
One good way to test the survey's ability to retrieve the kind of information you want is to study the results of a trial run of a limited number of users. Look at individual results to see if responders became confused by the questions, if there were too many 'don't know' or 'n/a' responses to make the question useful and so on.
Remember that statistical validity doesn't really begin until you have at least 30 responses within a response. This means that if you ask a question with four possible multiple choice answers, the data begins to be reliable when each multiple choice option has at least 30 responses.
Now, you need to remember that the surveys you conduct of visitors to your site represent the people that actually made it there – it completely misses all of those people that do not seem to know that your site exists. Oftentimes, those are the people whose opinions you need to discover. In that case, you may want to try an online survey group.
There are many, many web survey businesses that will help you design, conduct and analyse a formal survey, often targeting specific markets for you. One of the more interesting offerings is www.surveymonkey.com. These folks are so sure that you will prefer their service that they encourage you to compare and give you a list of their competitors with links to their sites! So, if you think you know what you want to ask and who you want to ask, it may be worth giving one of these services a try.
Trend Analysis and Industry Research
Since many small business owners cannot afford to undertake major formal marketing surveys, this kind of market research is typically the province of trade associations. One of the many reasons to join a trade association is to gain access to the market research that is conducted on behalf of its membership.
To find macro market research, try these techniques:
- Google your product area name and the words 'trade association' or 'market research' or 'industry'
- Google your target market name and the words 'market research” or 'trends' or 'buying habits'
If you sell on eBay, be sure to read our articles on Secrets of Selling on eBay to learn about the wonderful array of market research information that is available to you through the eSources Market Research Wizard and the eBay sites.