When we think about the pitfalls of conducting market research, our minds tend to focus on all of the mistakes you can make when collecting data or analyzing the results. You can find other posts on this blog, for example, that discuss why it is important to collect data in a way that can be generalized to the entire universe being studied, why intentions do not necessarily translate into actions, and why correlation does not equate to causation.
But even if you are diligent about ensuring that your overall methodology is solid, there is another oversight that can potentially cause even more problems in your research: conducting research that isn’t actionable.
During my time with a previous employer, we once had an international gear and apparel brand contact us (we’ll call them “Brand X” for confidentiality) that had just completed a large-scale segmentation of their customers through another vendor. While that vendor was qualified to do the work, the segmentation analysis had resulted in 12 market segments. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that from a methodological perspective, but anyone charged with marketing products will agree that it’s incredibly difficult to split your focus so many directions. If they tried to do so, they would likely dilute their overall messaging to the point that it simply wasn’t cohesive.
Brand X asked us to try and salvage the project by taking the initial results and refining them into a more manageable set of segments for Brand X in the future. We were able to help, but in the end, the study took roughly 50% more time and resources to complete because they weren’t specific up front about what they were looking to accomplish with the segmentation and the constraints that would need to be in place for it to be usable.
At Corona, we are always mindful of this potential blunder, so we encourage our clients to think not only about how to conduct the research, but also why the research is being conducted. We often set 3-5 major goals for the research up front that can be used to vet any other survey questions or focus group topics in order to ensure the end result will meet the needs for which the research was undertaken in the first place. By understanding how you will be able to use the results, you can design research in a way that will ensure the results will allow you to make those tough decisions in the end.