I’d like to learn more about how I can find or conduct any research to get a better understanding of my customers and my competitors (I own a computer and electronics shop).
To continue our conversation (this is part 2 of 3, read part 1 here), I previously wrote about the need for market research along with some informal information gathering, which is a start, but may not provide the insight you might need. Formal marketing research makes the process more orderly and more concrete. Marketing research falls into two categories: qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitative research is best when you want to get a subjective feel for something. It can help evaluate how key customers think about your product and what motivates them to make a purchase.
An easy way to conduct qualitative research on customers is through a feedback form. You can gain valuable insight by asking your customers how you are doing, asking for suggestions, and asking for their opinions. You can provide the form in your store, attached to the receipt, or on your website.
Another qualitative method is through conducting focus groups – essentially a moderated discussion with groups of target customers. If you are planning to start carrying a new product group in your store for example, your focus groups may be composed of local adults or computer enthusiasts, whatever your primary target is. Small business owners and manager have an advantage of being much closer to the customers than bigger companies that usually hire agencies to recruit and conduct the group. Offer your best customers special offers or free products or services in exchange for an hour or so of their time. For a small investment, the information you receive can be priceless.
Some limitations of qualitative research, is that you may gather some soft data on your customers, and give you a direction or trend to follow. However they are not statistically reliable, meaning that you can’t make quality inferences to a larger population.
Next time I’ll elaborate more on the quantitative side of market research.