No matter what type of business you operate, consumer research is critical. Whether you’re bringing a new product to market or you’re an established company looking to branch out and offer new services, assessing consumer demand for your proposed solution before committing to a launch will ultimately result in significant time and money savings for your growing business.
But where can you get this necessary insight into your target customer’s mindset and behavior? In fact, you may already be sitting on a goldmine of information! Check out the following web data solutions you can use to drive this critical market research:
Solution #1 – Google Analytics
Most businesses today use Google Analytics or a related program to measure popular website visitor metrics, including bounce rate, average time on site and conversion rate. And while these measurements are certainly important, this program can be used for so much more!
To use Google Analytics as a market research tool, begin by logging into your website’s dashboard. The first set of information you’ll want to look at is the range of keyword phrases website visitors have entered into the search engines before landing on your website, which can be found via the “Traffic Sources” menu in the left-hand sidebar:
Again, the pages that are most popular on your site should give you some insight into the types of information your visitors naturally gravitate to you. By identifying patterns in your top pages, you may be able to uncover potential areas for future expansion.
Solution #2 – Heatmaps
Using heatmaps on your website provides a number of different analytics benefits – although market research is rarely recognized as one of them.
To take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to install a heatmap tool that tracks where visitors are clicking on your web pages, as in the following example from CrazyEgg’s “Confetti” mapping tool:
What’s interesting about click data is that, quite frequently, website visitors click on areas where no links are present. And while this behavior might seem odd to webmasters, the information provided by this intent can be incredibly useful in terms of getting into the minds of your current customers.
For example, suppose you run an ecommerce website that uses some stock imagery in your site’s design. If you see a large number of visitors clicking on an image that isn’t actively linked, this could be used as evidence that readers might be interested in seeing similar products in your future retail offerings.
Obviously, you’ll want to test any conclusions you draw from this web data before investing in a completely new product launch. Following our current example, the large number of clicks seen on an inactive picture could be due to consumer interest – or they could be occurring because something in your website’s design is causing confusion.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to use the data generated by click location heatmaps as a starting point, but to test any conclusions you draw through the use of consumer surveys before committing to a new product line or service offering.
Solution #3 – Consumer Surveys
Navigate to any major ecommerce website, and it’s just about guarantee you that you’ll come across at least one pop-up survey invitation during your site visit. There’s a reason so many of the web’s “big dogs” risk alienating viewers with irritating pop-up messages – it’s because the data derived from this technique is just that good!
Survey data is what’s known in the marketing research world as “primary data” – that is, the information generated using this tool comes directly from your target prospects. This is in contrast with “secondary data,” which draws conclusions based on extrapolations from existing information about market trends and consumer preferences.
Obviously, primary data – in this case, consumer surveys – is going to be more valuable than pre-published secondary sources in terms of leveraging the relationships your existing customer relationships to drive future business expansion.
However, not all surveys are created equally. In order to conduct a good consumer survey and increase your chances of gathering the richest possible feedback, you’ll want to be mindful of the following guidelines:
- Keep it simple – Now isn’t the time to ask your customers for their opinions on every business idea you’ve ever had. The shorter your surveys, the more likely they’ll be completed, so stick to a small group of questions centered on a single idea.
- Encourage explanations – Asking “yes or no” questions won’t provide you with much information. Instead, ask respondents to select from a range of possible answers or offer text entry sections that allow them to provide valuable alternate responses.
- Offer an incentive – Give your readers a reason to participate in your survey by offering a small coupon code or free product as a reward.
To get started with your own customer surveys, take a look at the tools provided by Zoomerang and Survey Monkey – both of which offer feature-rich free and paid versions, as well as easy website integration.
Solution #4 – Government Data
While the first three solutions for gathering web data discussed in this article can provide a tremendous amount of insight into your target customer’s mindset, they do have one major limitation – you must have an existing website and customer base for them to be useful!
But suppose you’re thinking about rolling out an entirely new product or service and don’t have a current audience that you can poll? If this is the case, you may want to take a look at two of the web’s most underutilized market research data sets – government data from both the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Census Office.
First, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Consumer Expenditure Survey” data set, which “provides information on the buying habits of American consumers, including data on their expenditures, income, and consumer unit (families and single consumers) characteristics.” You can also use the Census Office’s “Business & Industry” page to compare your BLS findings with data on current business trends by industry.
Of course, as with every other kind of secondary data, government statistics have their limitations. Industry predictions may be wrong, sample sizes may be too small to draw meaningful conclusions and survey participants may provide answers that aren’t consistent with how they’d respond in real life.
However, these freely available data sets provide a much better starting point for your market research than simply “winging it.” Using them alongside whatever types of primary market research data you can gather will significantly reduce your chances of striking out by improving your odds of entering a market that’s hungry for your products and services.