market research

Integrating Consumer understanding with Business strategy – In conversation with Manish Makhijani, CMI Director – PDC, Unilever

  • Mrinal Gaur
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  • 3 February , 2021
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    • 7 min read

“Consumer centricity comes from talking to consumers every few days and that should be a part of your organization culture” True words spoken by Manish Makhijani during our insightful webinar session with him.

Manish Makhijani is the Global PDC Director at Unilever and he is the Vice President of The Market Research Society of India(MRSI). He has spent more than twenty years in the research industry on both agency and client-side. Apart from India, he has worked with Unilever in the UK, Singapore, and Thailand across different categories and brands. Before Unilever, he worked on various brands and clients in Starcom and Kantar TNS. He is known for his expertise in the field of insights and analytics and is passionate about enhancing the insights capabilities of the organizations. He has written various papers for ESOMAR and MRSI, presented in different industry forums and webinars. He has helped many budding researchers in their journey as he has also been a visiting faculty and guest lecturer- from MICA in Ahmedabad to the London School of Economics. In 2013, he was awarded the prestigious Ginny Valentine Award for Courage in Research.

 

Market research should inform Strategy development. How do we ensure that they remain integrated from starting from research initiation to strategy execution?

" The journey needs to happen within an organization. The insights function needs to evolve from being a research provider to a strategic consultant to an advisor.

For that, you need to build that credibility with the marketing team and advertising agency first, by offering them a genuine market research insight as to why something like say a particular ad wouldn’t work? Apart from being good thinkers, insight managers should also have leadership capabilities - they should be able to drive a change agenda and be able to stand up and say - look this product is not going to do very well in the market and this is the reason behind it. The talent you hire, the grooming you do, and how insightful you make the team, it all makes a difference to the journey of a research function"

 

Do you also get into the kind of mapping that figures out the pillars on which a brand is built so that, no matter what the piece of communication is, you ensure that it stands on those pillars?

"We do see what are the various category drivers like how do people choose a brand within a category? Then we look at the brand drivers – for instance, the fundamental driver of Surf Excel is to be able to clean clothes properly, then comes the fragrance, and then we also need to see how our brand is performing on those parameters. There might be other emotional hooks as well. So, even before you show your brand in the ad, people should know that this is a Surf Excel ad and then you know that this is what the advertising of your brand is all about."

 

Could you paint this picture for us in terms of the needs a product addresses and the psychographic profile of the people who use it?

 "Talking about beauty soaps, generally speaking, in India, women in the slightly lower than middle-class category don’t have access to too many makeup products because they don’t want to spend on makeup. They tend to feel a little guilty about spending the money on themselves. A strong part of femininity is that you want to feel good about yourself, not that men don’t want to feel good, but women want to feel soft skin, they want to have a good fragrance, and they want to smell nice because that gives them a sense of wellbeing. Now, can you provide all this in a bar of soap - a soap that keeps you smelling nice for a long period and makes your skin soft, that fulfills the need state of your mind – that is what beauty soaps like Godrej no. 1, Lux, and santoor do. Santoor takes a slightly different angle - it targets slightly older women and for years, they have been showing an ad where there is a young girl and a child suddenly appears and says, mommy. The surprise element is that she does not look as old because she is the mother of a young child. 

 For a simple humble category like a soap, where people switch brands without even blinking, they need to think about the need state of the consumers they are targeting and do their advertising accordingly. The point is to be consistent over time so that you own that position."

 

In the current environment, there is a deluge of data and information available. How do you deal with this amount of data and derive intelligence and insights out of it?

 "It is very easy to get lost in the data that is available today. Hence, a sharp focus of what you are looking for is extremely critical and a clear understanding of where you are going to get it from is important as well and that is why your skill as a researcher comes in. For example, if I want to know why my sales are declining and I have loads of data coming in, I will run through a hypothesis similar to a typical critical thinking method. Let's say  I identify the reason that I am not available anymore as much as I used to be – Now, I need the distribution data, like details about who is selling my brand and who is not selling it, and I will focus only on that data. I think the ability to think critically is far more critical today than it used to be 10 years ago because that gives you the ability to filter out what you don’t want to see and filter out what you don’t need to see. As human beings, we have got our own biases and filters which we need to be aware of and therefore set filters accordingly."

 

Can you tell us something about the PDC so that we can get an idea of how it is organized to be able to draw insights from multiple sources?

 "There are two streams of insights in the people data centre out of the three streams - one is the social listening part, the second is the consumer engagement centre and the third is digital marketing. We use social listening tools extensively to listen to the conversations that people have on social media, of course, which are public - what people are thinking and how their emotions are changing. For instance, initially in the pandemic, people were excited about being at home for a few weeks because they thought they will have a better work-life balance then people started getting tired of that. This was all available on social media as a conversation. You need to make sure that you’re listening to people of different profiles, people from different parts of the country, enough men and women of different economic strata, and so on so that you’re not being biased by one segment. But you complement this with the primary research as well. This is one part of what the new way of doing research is, the other part is through the call centre route which is our global vertical that I lead. There, when we speak to millions and millions of consumers across the world, 30 percent of the time they spend reaching out to us is because they have a problem and they want to complain about a product, but 70 percent of the time they are reaching out to ask a genuine question or give a suggestion. That tells you how interested they are in these products and brands and that itself is a sign of involvement. The insights that we get from those unprompted conversations are huge, so we agree we have brought products back into the market which had been delisted due to this "

 

 Can you tell us if there was a clear progression of how people were responding to lockdown and were you able to do something in terms of insights for marketing?

" Yes, we did through Analytics and Social listening. We couldn’t do research fieldwork for a few months so we recruited some panels of people and started having a conversation with them through WhatsApp every week. We were doing video calls with those ones who were affluent. Women, for instance, who were working but who were now at home because of the lockdown went through a really big problem. They said that at least they could get out of the house for eight to ten hours earlier. Now, they are expected to do all the housework along with the expectations for work from home. Their problems multiplied and incidences of home abuse went up dramatically, So, we did activities not just in terms of launching new things like surface cleaners and toilet cleaners which are very obvious recommendations but we took initiatives for their mental and emotional trauma and helped communities too. We took those kinds of initiatives where we look after people in terms of their well-being."

 

How can small businesses do research? Is it more like a DIY approach?

" It is not that you don’t need skilled practitioners but at the heart of it, market research is about understanding your customers, what is it that drives them to buy, when do your people leave and go to the competition. You can do it yourself by talking to a few customers and making your organization more consumer-centric or customer-centric. For example, in Unilever, we have a full consumer centricity program where people go and meet consumers and we call it a consumer connect program and even the leadership team spends at least 10 to 15 hours every month meeting and talking to consumers directly. We talk to them asking what they are using? How are they using our products? Have you seen our new ad? Thus, if you spend every month talking to consumers, it gives you a thorough understanding of the real situation. I think that consumer centricity is all about an organization's culture."

 

Today several brands do purpose-driven advertising - when do you think that would work and when would you recommend it?

"There is clear evidence that purpose drives a brand and in the last 10 years, brands with purpose have grown a lot more than brands without purpose. But it works only if the brand truly means what it says. This can happen only when the purpose is truly integrated into the brand. For example - Surf Excel's purpose is to provide the right parenting guidance so that they provide the right environment for their children. That is integrated into what the brand stands for and aligns with the brand philosophy, then it doesn’t feel like you are doing something else whereas if you just once in a while do some promotion then it doesn’t work. People will forget about it quickly. "

 

Does one need to know data science and have the technical knowledge to understand consumer insights? 

"Consumer insights are more about the innate ability to connect the dots – For instance, if I see somebody eating ketchup and I see the same person watching Netflix, I should be able to understand if there could be a connection between these two? One gets very random pieces of data, the point is how do you connect them. Of course, you should have the technical knowledge and you might need to use analytics as well but that is not enough. It is only a foundation but it is your ability to connect intuitively and understand consumers is that matters. Insight is a true integration of both science and art."

 

Watch the complete session of this webinar on Youtube.


5 steps to creating a successful Market Research survey

  • Mrinal Gaur
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  • 15 December , 2020
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    • 5 min read

Einstein once said ‘The important thing is not to stop questioning’ But does the count matter? Does every question lead us to the desired learning? The trick is not in asking questions but knowing how to ask the right questions. 

Holistic market research requires us to either own that skill or learn it. This is all the more pertinent now that businesses are becoming more and more consumer-centric. We can reach a consumer-oriented solution only by knowing what our consumers want, when they want, and how they want, and we need to ask them the right questions first.

 Let us first understand what market research is. A new opportunity in a business and its related domains should be analyzed first through market research as it gives us an idea of the viability and feasibility of the decisions to be taken. As precisely explained in one of our previous blogs, market research plays a vital role when we have to spot business opportunities, to understand our consumers in-depth, to understand our competitors and their approach, to grow in business, and to identify the right channels of marketing for our business.

A very powerful form of market research is primary research, which is best described as an entirely new form of data collected by asking questions to the existing and prospective consumers of our brand. There are multiple types of primary research implemented depending upon our objectives - Interviews, Focus groups, Surveys, and Observations. When it comes to collecting information from a large number of people systematically with a decision orientation, a survey is highly effective.

After a market research survey has been generated, rolled out and after our data points are in place, the next logical step is to analyze these points and derive actionable insights. This is a lengthy process through and through. In fact, the data collection process alone can take months, even years sometimes, hence, it is all the more important to start off on the right note. Mind it, Surveying could be cumbersome and non-conclusive if the number and type of questions are not appropriate.

Hence, we have put down steps involved in making a successful market research questionnaire to ask meaningful questions to our audience.

 

First and foremost, we define our Research Problem & Target Audience

A simple way to define our research problem and target audience is to answer the following questions first.

What is the goal of this research?

What problem are we trying to solve with this data? What sort of decision will this survey lead to? Where will it be implemented? 

How will it be useful to the consumers, brands and products? What information do I want from this market research questionnaire and why? 

What do I hope to understand about my target audience through this research? 

What market is this survey targeting? Which segment is the perfect fit and will help in the decision making process with reliable insights?

While answering these questions, we need to keep in mind the following - the size of our audience sample, the channel, and medium of our survey, and the detailed characteristics of our audience. Several data points with only a handful of them qualifying the characteristics is a waste of resources with no conclusive results.

We can use a few online tools to also build our consumers’ persona as explained in detail in one of our previous blogs.

 

Divide the information to be collected into Information Areas

After defining our research problem, we put down all the information that needs to be collected and group them in logical heads which are our key information areas. This list needs to be exhaustive, because a single missing piece can lead to an unsolved puzzle in the end and the process cannot be practically repeated. We also make sure that these key areas are not overlapping or contradicting each other.

Let us take an example to understand this better. 

For a market research survey conducted to design a marketing strategy for an existing FMCG product, the information areas could be Usage of product, Purchase behaviour , Profile, Perception, and Brand health.

 

Logically sequence your information areas

After the information areas are in place, we order them as per logic to ensure that the survey nurtures respondent friendliness. The flow of the market research questionnaire is kept such that the respondent does not get mentally fatigued in between, hence, it is also a good practice to keep the questions about the core purpose of the study right in the beginning. Some common criteria to decide this order are chronology, expected bias, and the level of critical thinking. 

 Some of the common structures that are followed include -

  1. Introduction of the respondent
  2. Screening questions
  3. Category behaviour
  4. Brand health and image
  5. Respondents’ Attitudes/beliefs
  6. Additional/ secondary data

 

Start asking questions now!  

Now, we can start forming questions within the Information areas. An effective way to create questions is to divide the information areas further into Variables and Indicators. 

For example, under ‘Category behaviour’ mentioned in the previous head, the variables are ‘Purchase behaviour’ and ‘Usage behaviour’. Furthermore, the indicators under ‘Usage behaviour’ are ‘frequency’, ‘purpose’, and ‘type’.

Within these heads and subheads, the questions belong to two categories - Open-ended and close-ended. When it is important to capture spontaneous answers or when we can’t put together an exhaustive list of responses as an aided list, we use open-ended questions such as ‘what do you particularly like about Product X?’ or ‘What are the reasons for not using Product X?’

On the other hand, Close-ended questions are easier and quicker to answer for a respondent as they have options to choose from. The respondents are given an aided list, which is an exhaustive list of all possible answers. Here, we make sure that the options are mutually exclusive and are not open to interpretation. 

We always go for short, simple, and clear questions. For example, rather than asking, 

‘Have you used the conditioner at least twice in the last two months?’, 

we should be asking ‘Have you used the conditioner two or more times in the last 1 month?’ 

Similarly, ambiguous questions are avoided because they don’t lead to a thoughtful answer.

 

Proofing, and Piloting

Now, when we have put down our questions in the market research questionnaire, it is imperative to check for errors and test it once. We examine questions against the initial information areas in terms of completeness and we run a need test (for knowing if there is any question that is not required). Finally, we run it informally to know if the flow works, to check if any contradictory answers are emerging, or if any questions are heavy on the respondents' memory, and to assure the length of the survey is correct. 

Before rolling out the market research survey online or online, it is crucial to examine the survey as a whole once. Hence, we ensure to provide context to the respondents in the form of reasons. Also, we set the expectations for the participants concerning length, time taken to complete it and a progress bar within the survey is always a great option. 

While these are the steps involved in creating a market research survey, one wise thing to do not just while making it but also executing it is to follow logic and common sense. Remember, a true researcher should always remove his cloak of views and biases before starting to work on a survey because it is more important to know what others think.

Voila, our survey is ready to go!

Reach out to our research experts to know more about how you can create the right market research strategy for your business! 

 

 


Top 3 Market Research Tools that every marketer should leverage

  • Hunar Mehta
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  • 19 November , 2020
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    • 6 min read

Top Market Research Tools

You don’t watch a show on Netflix without doing thorough research about it, do you? Then why compromise on research when it comes to marketing your product or brand digitally. While the internet has taken over the marketing world completely, good market research is still in trend. Market research plays an extensive role in digital marketing. It provides you with significant and vital information, and in a way can make or break your digital marketing campaign. This blog will give you an insight into some top market research tools to help you grow your brand.

 

But before we move any further into, let us understand -

What is Market Research and why is it so important?

Market research or marketing research is a technique that is employed not just by market research companies but sole traders as well, to collect information and gather insights about another company/brand’s target audience. If you own a business you would want to know where your customers spend most of their time, what are their pain points and preferences, what pushes them to buy your product, what holds value for them, and so on. Market research helps you to answer all these questions, design better products, and improve user experience. Market research analysts play a key role in market research companies as they are designated individuals who are experts in creating market research reports and essentially carrying out the market research process from start to finish. 

 

Most of us shut our minds on hearing the word research and “geek-shame” it. I just came up with that term, but I am sure you know what I mean. All of us have million-dollar business ideas that we want to bring to life and market research never finds space in that to-do list. But let me tell you obsessing over your customers and getting them to know them up and close, is the only way to win. 

 

Now if you are one of those who isn’t big on research but still wants to leave a mark which is not limited to your carbon footprint, you have landed on the right page. There are so many market research tools out there that will make your lives easier and help you maximize market research efforts. Lucky for you, I have done thorough research on them.

 

  • SiteProfiler - 

 SiteProfiler, from Mangools.com, as the name suggests is one of a few market research tools that analyze websites, and compiles all your competitors' website statistics and SEO metrics in one place. All you need to do is enter a website URL and SiteProfiler will provide you with all the statistics about that website. 

 

It shows all aggregated data - domain authority, page authority, citation and trust flow, rank, and so on. It also provides you with all the backlinks with top referring domains directed to a site. 

Along with this, the market research report by SiteProfiler will also show you the top content the site has generated and where their major traffic comes from. 

The main advantage of this market research tool is that it also breaks your audience by age, location, gender, interests, and so on. When it comes to competitors, SiteProfiler shows you the competitive landscape of the website along with relevant keywords. 

 

One of the simplest and easiest market research tools that visualize data in the form of charts and statistics, making it extremely easy to decode it. SiteProfiler also has a google chrome extension and hence you can find insightful information about any website as and when you browse.

Other  tools to measure statistics - Tableau, Statista

 

  • Google trends -

 

Originally an online search tool, Google trends is also known to be a great market research tool as it allows you to see how often specific keywords and phrases have been searched for over a period of time. It analyses Google searches and provides you with information as to how many searches were made for the particular terms and keywords along with geographical information about the users. It can also be used for comparative keyword studies and to discover spikes caused in keyword search volume due to certain events.  

The best part is that Google updates the data on Google trends daily, but I would suggest that you take this information with a pinch of salt owing to the data sampling issues and approximations that might be employed to compute results. One more advantage that makes Google trends one of the more effective market research tools online is that it provides you with real-time data inclusive of the latest trends from across the globe. Many market research companies find the user-interface also extremely easy to use and navigate.

 

How to use it? Enter a search term in the search box at the top and see how the search volume has varied for that keyword over different locations and periods of time. You can produce more fine-grained data by changing the location, time frame, category, and type of search. 

 

The data found in Google Trends can be used for several different marketing purposes : 

 

  • SEO and content marketing - This tool can be used to understand what your target audience in the market is searching for. Use this efficiently to research and market your content or to drive traffic to your site.
  • Paid search - This data can be used to ramp up your seasonal campaigns and contribute to cost planning. You can also find out irrelevant keywords that can be negated while running your ads. 
  • Running Ad creatives - Google trends help you figure out what topics are currently trending and referencing a trending topic in your campaigns (email, Facebook ad, etc) can increase the engagement of your campaigns.

 

Other tools for content research - Flipboard, Slideshare, Google alerts 

 

  • MakeMyPersona :

 

Answer a series of questions about your ideal customers and this market research tool will generate buyer personas for you. Make My Persona is a free online market research tool by Hubspot that aids your buyer persona research and helps you organize and understand better. After answering a few strategic questions you will be presented with a personalized shareable persona sheet providing you with significant details about your target audience. Research and market to your ideal customers on a platform they spend most of their time on! You cannot get any more specific than this. 

 

How to go about this - 

 

  • Go to Make My Persona and select your path. If you have already done your research you can directly start. If not, this tool provides you with an educational guide that helps you learn what a buyer persona is, how to conduct research and surveys, and so on. 
  • There is a seven-step creation flow that you will be guided through and each step will focus on a different aspect of the buyer persona. 
  • Once you are done with this, you will get your persona editor document which can be formatted and customized to suit your needs. If you are satisfied with it, download it! 

 

Other tools to get social insights - Facebook and LinkedIn analytics, Social mention 

 

This blog lists a few of the top market research tools available and I urge you all to take out some time and try your hands at each of these tools before you start your online market research as it will help you to identify your target audience efficiently, know what digital areas and platforms you should be active on, study the market, and identify the key influencers. It teaches you to keep a watchful eye on the market while providing a direction to your brand. 

And since the digital landscape is changing ever so rapidly, consumer research is extremely vital. Without using the right resources to maximize market research efforts, your business can become lost and more so, become a prisoner of your assumptions. So put on your research hat, channel your inner geek, and get started!

Happy Researching! :) 

Reach out to our research experts to know more about how you can create the right market research strategy for your business!


5 reasons why businesses need market research

  • Lalitha Shukla
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  • 26 October , 2020
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    • 3 min read

“Running a company on market research is like driving while looking in the rearview mirror”, says Anita Roddick and we couldn’t agree more. To break down what market research is in a simpler form, it is considered the backbone of any business. When you first think of a business idea or come across a business opportunity it is important to understand the market landscape, who your competitors are in addition to knowing your consumers. The first few months can prove to be precarious to any new business and if you haven’t spent enough time and effort into market research, then you’re not going to have a business model strong enough to ensure that those customers don’t stop coming to you. Let’s look at what market research entails and why it is important for businesses to invest in it.

What is Market Research?

Market research is the simplest and most efficient way for businesses to keep up with the industry trends, identify consumer problems and track realistic competitors while maintaining an edge by sizing up a business opportunity. It isn’t a specific activity or a method, it’s just an attempt for businesses to learn more about their target audience to maintain relevance and longevity of their business. Market research can be carried out in different stages depending on different objectives - for instance, if your business is launching a new product or service, conducting research from the pre-launch stage makes sense as it will help you gain a sense of how your target market may respond to your product/service and help you establish a sound business strategy to grow your brand and leave your competitors behind. 

Now that we have a better understanding of ‘what is market research’, let’s look at how it could prove to be fruitful to a burgeoning business and ensure it’s growth and longevity, or simply put - the importance of marketing research for businesses.

  • It helps you spot business opportunities - When you spend adequate time on market research, you don’t just learn about your customers in-depth but also identify other avenues for growth like viable partnerships with other businesses and crack deals that can be mutually beneficial. Additionally, your research findings can also help you in coming up with product extensions, product bundles and upsells that can help increase revenue. 
  • It helps you understand your customers in-depth - For businesses, the role of marketing research comes into play in understanding and solving customer problems and their pain points in depth. There are certain exercises that you as a business owner can conduct to get a better understanding of who your target customer is and how they behave. Some of these include surveys, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, telephone interviews amongst others. 
  • It helps you understand your competitors and their approach - If your business is in a heavily competitive space, knowing and understanding what your competitors are doing is instrumental in establishing a different marketing strategy for your business. Market research helps you assess the key players and what they do. Additionally, it can also help you identify the weaknesses in your competitor’s approach and identify the gaps that you can bank on to win over customers, thus defining the importance of marketing research.  Knowing what your competition is doing and staying ahead of them is pivotal to the success of your business. 
  • It helps you in business growth - The role of marketing research is pivotal in detecting more business opportunities, devise the perfect marketing strategy, stay ahead of your competition, capture relevant insights and grow your business while minimizing your losses. It helps you categorize your objectives while staying relevant to your target customers. An effective research strategy will not only help you predict some of the pitfalls but also help you navigate through them. The process of market research is designed to reduce risks, devise apt marketing strategies and growth models that are cost-effective for your business. 
  • It helps you identify the right channels of marketing - Once you set up your business, you need a solid marketing plan to build awareness and acquire customers. Market research can help you in reaching your target audience in the channels where they are most likely to see your brand. The importance of marketing research lies wherein you can get detailed insights about your customers, what they do, whether they are digital-savvy or not, what kind of messaging they will respond to and how you can reach them. Once you have this information, you can then devise a marketing strategy that takes into account all the right channels of communication, the right kind of messaging and the right kind of budget to amplify the messaging. 

In conclusion, all we’d like to say is that if you are a business that’s just starting out, ensure you spend enough time and resources to get a better understanding of the market landscape as it guarantees success and growth. We have put together this article to help you understand what is market research and to elucidate the importance of marketing research for your ambitious business plans.

Reach out to our research experts to know more about how you can create the right market research strategy for your business! 

 

 


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