Conducting market research — when and why you should outsource
Looking to outsource your market research? Check out our guide to when, why, and how to conduct market research with an outsourced vendor
Market research lies at the heart of some of the most important decisions any brand can make.
Big or small, every company needs data to decide.
Market research is your way of getting the data and insights you need to inform your decision making.
How to do market research
There are essentially three routes you can take:
Do it yourself market research - with a specialist in-house team it’s possible to design and run many of your own research projects. Some organizations have a central research team that provides a service for departments throughout the organization. It’s likely you’ll still need some outside support for sourcing respondents — particularly if you need to look beyond your customer database — and this will usually involve a third party panels provider.
Outsourced market research - many companies choose to outsource their entire market research to an agency or research company. Each provider will offer different levels of service from an end-to-end service, to taking on individual tasks within a project like designing a study, sourcing respondents, and reporting the findings.
Third-party research - research companies often make their research available for a fee. It’s usually generic, such as giving general consumer trends in a particular industry or reporting on market data, so it won’t give as deep insights as the other two approaches.
When to outsource: The challenges of conducting market research in-house
Many companies simply don’t have an in-house team ready to take on a research project, while others that do have the capabilities in-house may still choose to bring in outside resources to help them deliver high-quality market research.
Here’s some of the main reasons to consider outsourcing your market research:
Speed & agility — market research agencies and vendors can scale up and down quickly to meet demand from their clients. So as business needs change quickly, whether you need research faster or need to shift to a new type of research, outsourced vendors can typically move much quicker than an internal resource.
Resources — either you don’t have an internal research team, or your existing team is stretched with a backlog of existing projects, outsourcing your market research is a great way to ensure you run high-quality projects and still meet your deadlines.
Getting insights from new audiences — most companies running their research in-house rely on their own database of potential respondents such as their existing customers. However, many market research projects require you to look outside of your current customer base for example, if you’re looking to target a new audience with a product or identify how you could appeal to new segments with your existing products. Market research vendors can help here — they have access to tens of millions of potential panelists and are a vital resource to help you get insights from new audiences.
In-house skillsets - the trouble with market research covering so many different types of research projects is that many organizations won’t always have specialists on hand. For example, you may have a team of researchers, but from time to time want to run a project outside of their skillset. In these instances, it’s worth considering outsourcing as a way to bring the expertise in, whether it’s designing a brand tracker, a product survey or any other type of market research. This is particularly useful for those projects you run less frequently and where it makes little sense to have a full-time specialist resource on your books.
How to outsource your market research
Outsourcing your market research means finding a trusted partner - either an agency or research company - that can support you with:
Defining the problem and strategy - they’ll take the brief to understand the objective of the research and plan out the strategy to help you meet it. This is a vital step, as a third party an outsourced vendor may propose different methods or strategies to achieve the outcome than you had thought of going in.
Survey design and methodology - every market research survey is different, and it’s tailored to the problem you’re trying to solve. Your partner should advise on the design of your survey to meet your objectives and the methodology for collecting, and reporting on, the data.
Translations — if you’re conducting research across multiple countries, Google Translate simply won’t cut it. The best market research agencies will have survey translation services that will ensure you get high-quality data across all regions you’re researching.
Recruiting respondents — finding people to take part in your research is hard enough at the best of times, and even harder when you need a specific audience. The best market research agencies work with multiple panel providers to get you high-quality responses, whatever the conditions you set. Before choosing a partner, it’s a good idea to test out their ability to recruit the types of respondents you need, rather than find out further down the line that they’re unable to meet your research objectives.
Data processing - at this stage, your outsourced market research vendor will clean your data to make sure there’s nothing skewing your results. So by the time you get your hands on the data, it’s ready to go and of the highest quality.
Analysis and reporting - look out for an agency or vendor that offers a wide range of analysis options. Depending on the research problem, the audience, and the data they might need to employ a whole host of methodologies to get to the insights you need. Some of the most common types of analysis to look out for include:
- Conjoint / MaxDiff
- Regression analysis
- Segmentation analysis
- TURF analysis
- Pricing analysis
- Key Driver Analysis
- Perceptual Mapping
Once the analysis is complete, your research partner should then provide you with the reports that help you make conclusions based on the data. Your reports should be easy to understand - and that goes for anyone in the organization - and easily shareable with the right stakeholders. It’s likely you’ll need to share the report with people beyond the research team, so it’s vital the report is easily accessible and understandable, so make sure it’s providing insights in plain language and not just giving them tables and tables of data.
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