Market surveys are a way in which companies obtain information about their customers and non-customer consumers or businesses, and how these customers or consumers view a company's products and services versus competitive products. Market surveys can be either qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative surveys are used for obtaining information on a small scale while quantitative surveys are more predictable across the general population. There are a number of market-survey techniques that companies can use to acquire valuable information on their customers.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are a qualitative market-survey technique. A company may interview customers from various demographic groups based on age, income or sex. The objective of a focus group is to get a general idea as to how these people shop for certain products, and which products they like best. The company may then introduce several new concepts, such as food, and survey people's likes and dislikes about the product.

One-on-One Surveys

One-on-one market surveys, another qualitative market-survey technique, are typically used for introducing new products. For example, a company may observe a customer operating a new type of software. The interviewer would then ask the customer and others how they like the new software and whether or not they would purchase it. One-on-one surveys are often used for beta tests to iron out problems before the product goes national.

Customer-Satisfaction Phone Surveys

Many surveys are conducted over the phone, such as customer-satisfaction surveys. Customer-satisfaction surveys measure satisfaction levels of customers with regard to the company's products, service, prices and other key attributes. These surveys are more quantitative in nature in that companies conduct hundreds of surveys so that they can determine where they have significant advantages or problems. Changes can then be made to correct these issues.

Mail-In Surveys

A company may use a mail-in survey to determine why some customers have stopped purchasing their products. Software companies sometimes use this quantitative market-survey technique. A small incentive such as $1 or $2 may be provided to respondents to fill out the information. Mail-in surveys are often very informative because a person can write in additional comments.

Online Surveys

Online surveys often appear on company websites in the form of a pop-up. These market-survey techniques can be activated at any time to start collecting demographic information or virtually any information for which a company is searching. The survey can then be terminated once enough questionnaires are completed. Online surveys can be unpredictable at times because there is no control over the type of person who responds, according to the All Business website (see References for a link).