What is customer research and why is it so important? Customer research is a structured investigation into a particular subject that helps us establish facts and draw meaningful insights.
Without research, companies would not be able to develop products or services that customers will appreciate. It’s about finding a need that isn’t satisfied and developing a solution. Research unearths new opportunities, addresses faults and plugs gaps.
There are two types of research
Quantitative research is characterized by numerical and statistical analysis. Examples of such research are close-ended questionnaires, polls, rating scales, tally counters, etc. Quantitative research methods basically produce data in raw quantifiable terms.
Qualitative research takes on a more subjective approach. It provides information like opinions, motivations or reasons that help draw insight from data. It helps us understand the reasons behind certain behavior and explains ‘why’ things are as they are. Qualitative research involves open-ended questionnaires, observations, personal interviews, focus groups, etc.
BOTH RESEARCH METHODS IN PRACTICE
As an example, data from quantitative research could tell us that airline ticket sales are the highest in the month of June every year. But, “Why are they the highest?”. Through qualitative research, we could discover that it’s usually the end of the school term and hence families prefer to go on vacation at that time of year.
How important is that information to the marketing team or the product team? Think of the benefits it could provide the aviation industry, travel agencies, insurance companies, hotels, car rentals, etc.?
DATA AND INFORMATION – THE DIFFERENCE
Very often the words data and information are used interchangeably, but there exists a very clear difference. Data includes facts and figures. When data is processed, organized, interpreted and presented in a meaningful format, it becomes information. Information is the context behind data.
How is digital advancing customer research?
The biggest obstacles to research in the past were sample size, time frames, geographic coverage, data purity, researcher bias, and budget constraints. Digitally, researchers comfortably tap into a population pool 10-100x greater and at a fraction of the time and cost. They also avoid, to a larger extent, data contamination.
Never has there been a time when the voice of the customer could be studied so comprehensively and in real time than it is today. The customer has been drawn deeper into the development process allowing us to be truly user-centric in our products and services.
Modern digital tools, such as web analytics, page heat-maps, path mapping, reviews, web tracking, interactive prototypes, landing pages, digital surveys, etc. They help product managers, designers and marketers articulate offerings better and remain agile in an ever-dynamic world. Social media has given a face to respondent data and spawned dialogues with customers and prospects.
A few months ago, I participated in a digital focus group program on behalf of our company. I was a passive observer working with the moderators behind the scenes. The data we pulled in a matter of hours dwarfed what we could have nearly a decade ago. We were able to cross-pollinate learnings or opinions and steer discussions within multiple focus groups simultaneously.
A FEW DIGITAL RESEARCH TOOLS TO CONSIDER
- Digital wireframes and mockups for UX designers – Balsamiq
- Usability studies for designers, marketers and product managers – Usability Hub
- Employee behavior, Customer Experience, Online Reputation – Social Survey
- Customer Experience – getfeedback
- Digital Focus Groups – FocusGroupIt
In an age where the boundaries of possibility are regularly tested, only those who weave their way into the DNA of their customer’s will be successful in building sustainable long-term value and even though we believe the tools for research have advanced, in the greater scheme of things, we’re only getting started.