Market research is an effective way of finding out what customers want and what they are likely to find interesting. For the research to be useful, a representative sample of your customer base/target market needs to be used.

Such research is generally used for analysing the target market, assessing customer needs, assessing the viability of a new product or learning about customer satisfaction.
There are two types of market research, primary and desk. Desk research uses internal information such as customer sales records and published information such as trade information or government publications. Primary (or field research) is undertaken within the market itself and is designed to get specific information from specific people.

Primary research can take one of three main forms:

1. Personal interviews use a set questionnaire; the answers are recorded and later correlated with other answers.

Advantages:

Refusal rate is low

Results are accurate

Non-verbal communication can be used

Questionnaire can be longer

Disadvantages:

High cost per interview

Inaccuracies may occur when recording answers

Large set up costs e.g. the recruiting and training of interviewers

2. Telephone interviews involve a set of questions being asked over the phone. Answers are later correlated.

Advantages:

Large number of interviews can be conducted

Interviewers can be based in one place and directly supervised

Cost per interview is low

Wider geographical areas can be covered

Disadvantages:

Not everyone has a phone

Questionnaire must be short

Non-verbal communication cannot be used

Response rates are lower

Hard to determine a good time to call

3. Postal surveys are sent to a sample population (a free gift or prize draw may encourage responses). Questionnaires must be concise, short and easy to understand. Information can be correlated on return.

Advantages:

Cheap to reach a wide range of people

No interviewer training required

Respondents can answer in own time

Disadvantages:

Cannot influence the amount of responses

Refusal rate is much higher than the other forms

Cannot clarify contradictory answers

Questionnaires must be very short to encourage a response

Results may not be representative

When deciding on which method to use the key factors are:

Amount of time available

Accuracy of the results required

The type of people you are intending on targeting

Geographical placing of the people you are targeting

Each form of research has its own merits and the most appropriate method for the desired result should be chosen.