Customer research isn’t a one-and-done approach, it’s an ongoing process to figure out who is interacting with your content and who should be targeted. Customers are ever-evolving and what consists of your audience today could be completely different in six months’ time.

While change can be scary, customer research doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be an exciting endeavour, bringing you one step closer to finding your ideal customer. We’ll discuss how to conduct customer research for digital marketing and the various ways to approach this as an ongoing process.

What is customer research? 

Simply put, customer research is the process of identifying the audience that you want your content to reach. Without this research, there’s no way to know who you’re aiming your content at which means that creating effective content is out of the question. 

Over time, your customer database will grow which provides you with access to a whole host of demographic information to help you understand what type of audience your product/service resonates with. 

The types of customer research

There are two distinct categories of customer research; primary and secondary. The research you conduct won’t always be done with the intention of discovering your audience, most of the time you’ll learn more about your customers through passive research.

How to conduct secondary customer research 

Secondary customer research involves looking at the resources businesses already have available to them and drawing conclusions from there. There are two main sources for secondary research, you can pull information from internal or external data. Here are some examples:

  • Internal data: This is an excellent resource for customer research as no one else has access to it but you. It’s also completely reflective of your business and its needs. Internal data includes sales history information, customer-generated data from surveys and reviews, and previous campaign results. 
  • External data: There may be certain opportunities that require the use of external sources. For example, if you’re looking for information on a new topic, or if there are gaps in the data you currently have that need to be filled. Examples of external data sources include government agencies, trade body statistics and competitor research.

How to conduct primary customer research

Primary research is used to answer specific research questions and typically involves putting together a study that will generate data. Here are some examples of how to conduct primary customer research:

  • Focus groups: Who better to help you learn about your customer base than your customers themselves? Focus groups are a way to get customers together to discuss your brand and collect their thoughts and suggestions. This typically involves some kind of incentive and mediator to ask questions. 
  • A/B testing: Also known as split testing, A/B testing involves identifying an area for improvement and testing two potential concepts for improvement to see which solution generates the most positive result. 
  • Public surveys: This method is timeless and has remained a reliable source of research for a reason. You can garner information about your target audience through focused surveys either online or in person and analyse the results from there. 

Things to consider when conducting customer research

It’s all well and good understanding how to conduct customer research, but how can you ensure it’s done effectively? Here are some key points to keep in mind: 

  • Personal bias: This is a biggie. All research needs to ensure that it remains completely unbiased in its approach. When formulating questions, review them closely to make sure there are no suggestive elements for preference. It’s crucial to be completely impartial. 
  • Approaching analysis: What do you do once you’ve gathered the research? Things can get pretty messy if your approach to analysis isn’t clear and focused. Make sure to present them in a way that is accessible and concise so that the outcome is clear to the rest of the team.  
  • Trustworthiness: How trustworthy is that data that’s been collated? Does it represent your audience to the best of your ability? Has the information been gathered from a trustworthy source? These are all things to consider when formulating your research. 

Overall, your research needs to be reliable, ethical, and astute. The key takeaway is that customer research isn’t final and there is always room to make improvements and reiterations. There are even some methods of research that can be done monthly, weekly, and even daily. We recommend revisiting customer research quarterly at least. 

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