Harnessing the Web for Market Research

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What does it take to turn someone into a paying customer? More importantly, in the face of competition, how can you make customers loyal to your business? Getting the answers to these million-dollar questions would pave the way for your business to grow.

Big businesses commission market research to learn such information. From its results, they can decide which trends, expectations, and segments to pursue. Having access to such insight can greatly improve products or services, and help affirm which has the most profit potential.

As defined by Investopedia, market research is a way for businesses to “discover who their target market is and what these consumers think about a product or service.”

As straight-forward as it sounds, market research can get messy when the right questions are not asked. Organized effort is needed to come up with a conclusive report.

For many budding cyber businesses, there’s usually no budget for formal market research. Good thing is, by just being in front of you computer screen, you already have access to a wealth of data that’s as helpful as any expensive FGDs or UAI studies.

With a trained eye for detail, here’s how you can do market research with a shoe-string budget.

Crowd-source for appeal

With crowd-sourcing, the general idea is to follow the wisdom of the crowd.

Platforms such as Kickstarter can help you test your innovation. With no money spent, you could find out if your idea stands a chance in the market, and if investors are willing to fund it. It’s inexpensive to set up an account in these online communities. However, your idea has to be intriguing. You need to pique the interest of a considerable mass to get helpful feedback.

Moving closer to your own network, your social media connections are themselves a ready audience. Just post a question or create a quick poll (which is both available in Facebook and Twitter). If you have a dedicated business page, you can use profiling tools to zoom in on your ideal audience for response. Select the location, job titles, or interests of your target crowd.

Listen with a purpose in social media

While crowd-sourcing is an active process, social media listening is often done in stealth mode. Here, your task is to find actionable suggestions, complaints, or requests voiced online. Though there’s a lot of noise out there, you’ll find that your target market is already raving about features they like, complaining about poor service, or wishing for product changes. Such data can also reveal your competitors’ weak and strong points. See if there’s a stated need that’s not being currently met.

With the right keywords around your specific business or general industry, you can find and filter these information quickly. Conversely, learn the vocabulary that your customers use in social media to refine your messaging. You also want to spot trends and use them to your advantage. When there’s an opportunity, directly converse with prospective customers as well.

Heed user reviews and ratings

Make your own website or affiliates double as catch-basin for opinions from your customers. Embed satisfaction ratings, commenting, or short surveys right within your business pages. Congratulations if you’re winning raves! It’s a good showcase because user-generated content is perceived as more authentic than any form of advertising.

Consider it a blessing in disguise as well if you publicly get thumbs down or two-star ratings. It’s as real as it gets when you hear back from your customers. If the negativity is unwarranted, just ignore them and strive harder to always deliver your best. But if your customers echo the same complaints and concerns, deal with it promptly as it could save your business.

These are just some ideas on how you can get the pulse of your market. Combined with numbers you can get from analytics, these kinds of qualitative data from the Web can supplement or even supplant traditional market research. Businesses that better understand their customers get ahead of the competition!

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