Consumer research is an important part of any company. Most large corporations allocate large budgets to consumer research because they know how valuable the information gained from listening to consumers is. However, large corporations are not the only companies that can benefit from consumer research. Even a small one location business could benefit tremendously by asking its customers for feedback. Consumer research helps companies improve their products and generate new ideas based on consumer demand.
Focus groups are the ultimate in consumer research. A focus group gives companies an in depth detailed view into consumers' minds and how they view and interact with the product. A focus group consists of a day long (or even longer) meeting of demographically appropriate individuals, usually around 10 in total. A facilitator will talk with consumers, have them interact with the product, ask questions and get feedback regarding the product. The whole focus group is usually observed and recorded by company executives who view the proceedings behind a two way mirror. Companies typically hold focus groups when researching a new product.
Call centers are another less obvious method for customer research. Call centers are the source for all things related to the company. A customer may call to find out information, report a product problem or get tech support. Almost all calls from call centers are recorded. The calls are sorted and categorized by type and this gives companies a good idea of what customers are saying. For example if the call center is being bombarded with calls regarding how to use a new product then the company knows that the instructions for the new product are inadequate. Companies monitor call center activity and relay information back to the appropriate divisions in their firm.
User Opinion Surveys
User opinion surveys are found inside retail outlets, on the company website and sometimes mailed out as questionnaires to customers on the company mailing list. This method allows customers to anonymously submit their opinions to the company in writing. Often there will be specific questions regarding satisfaction of products and customer service. These surveys are then gathered and analyzed by the marketing department and changes are made based on the responses of consumers.
Most companies have a website and a website can provide a lot of information about its visitors to a company. Most websites are tied to a tool that analyzes their traffic, one free tool that does this is Google Analytics. These tools provide information about the site's visitors and their behavior. For example most website performance metric tools allow companies to see, where in the world visitors are coming from, what content is most popular, where visitors go on their website and how this links to current promotions and sales.
3rd Party Research
There are many third party research companies that provide very valuable consumer research data to companies. These companies usually compile very large industry based surveys that would be too time consuming and costly for a single company to do. The market research company can afford to do this because it sells the final report to all the companies in that industry. These reports are usually very in depth and involve a wide range of demographic information and customer feedback. The report is also not biased because it does not favor a particular company or brand.