When to Use Different Types of Market Research

Summary: The selection of the most appropriate type of market research should be based on the particular business issue that is being considered: awareness, targeting, acquisition, or retention.

2 minutes to read. By author Michaela Mora on March 12, 2010
Topics: Business Strategy, Market Research

When to Use Different Types of Market Research

There are different types of market research that should be considered depending on the business goals.

In my previous article about how to connect to your customers with the help of research insights, I listed some of the key research questions that any business wanting to grow and succeed should ask. But, how do you do it?

Here we need to make a distinction between data collection methods and types of research based on the analytical approach, which are often confused. Data collection methods differ based on whether we want to conduct quantitative or qualitative research.

Qualitative research, which is exploratory in nature, usually uses data collection methods such as focus groups, triads, dyads,  in-depth interviews, uninterrupted observation, bulletin boards, and ethnographic participatory observation.

Quantitative research, which looks to quantify a problem, collects data through surveys in different modalities (online, phone, paper), audits, points of purchase (purchase transactions), and click-streams.

As for types of research, I mean the approaches used to analyze the data collected. Depending on the business objectives, we may decide to gather data to conduct a market segmentation, product testing, advertising testing, key driver analysis for satisfaction and loyalty, usability testing, awareness and usage research, and pricing research, among others.

 When to use each of these data collection methods and types of research depend on the business issues we are dealing with in one or more of four key areas:

  • Awareness: Let the market know that the product or service exists
  • Targeting: Reach the target segments with the highest profit potential
  • Acquisition: Optimize the marketing message, offer,  and price that will close the sale
  • Retention: Generate repeat purchases from current customers

The chart below, which we call the Relevant Wheel, shows when it is most appropriate and relevant to conduct different types of research.


Our clients find this chart to be helpful and use it as a reference to determine when a particular type of research is needed. Once this is defined, we discuss the most appropriate qualitative or quantitative data collection methods.

 So, next time you wonder what type of research to conduct, I invite you to ask yourself where the particular problem at hand belongs to (Awareness, Targeting, Acquisition, or Retention) and then use this chart to guide your decision on the most appropriate type of research. I hope you find it useful.

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