Researchers, by nature, are incredibly inquisitive and resourceful: we like to ask questions and solve problems. In fact, many research objectives center on understanding problems and asking why they occur. Thus, researchers got their start from this child-like tendency to constantly ask “why.” Today, our unique ability to conduct various methods of research online helps answer this question better than ever before.
The Purpose of Exploratory Research
Exploratory research, one of the primary avenues for qualitative research, is instrumental to understanding the “why” and other factors that have yet to be clearly defined. It is meant to gather descriptive information and provide a better understanding of something. It is not, however, necessarily meant to be used to validate or provide final conclusions. Organizations with less robust research strategies may not be as familiar with exploratory methods; often they are done through the use of
- Focus groups
- Secondary research
- Surveys with open-ended responses
Those organizations who don’t invest in an exploratory research phase put themselves at risk for developing weak concepts or missing out on identifying information that leads to course corrections. Subsequently, exploratory research insights gleaned from these methods provide the kind of information that sets a strong foundation for ideation, concept development, and creative executions—in addition to other benefits.
Reasons to Conduct Exploratory Research
1. It’s Flexible
Some market research methods can feel rigid, especially when it comes to things like concept or ad testing. But one of the great things about exploratory research is that it’s meant to be flexible and approached creatively in order to get the greatest amount of depth and insight.
For example, a variety of questions and projective techniques can be used to gather respondent feedback in a way that helps you better understand what consumers are thinking and why.
2. It Acts as a Signal
Depending on the specific objectives of the research, exploration acts as a signal, telling brands what they should avoid, or it identifies unmet needs teams should consider solving. Even more impactful, exploratory research can unveil inspiration for strong consumer insights, and ultimately exceptional concepts and creative—providing brands with a means to signal what projects to move forward with and which ones require further refinement or should be avoided altogether.
3. It’ll Focus Your Objectives
Many brands set out to dig up a collection of secondary research about an audience or subject in order to move forward with ideation. But there are shortcomings of secondary research that make this route challenging. Secondary research can lack context, relevance, and timeliness, and most importantly, brands have no influence over what questions are asked. Thus, custom exploratory research is often a better route.
This is especially true when it comes to leveraging exploration research before conducting an attitudes and usage study or additional phases of research. Specifically, exploratory research can be used to formulate what audience to target, what questions to ask, or the answer options that should be included when it comes to the next phase of research.
To see more examples of how exploratory research can be leveraged before additional phases of research, watch the webinar below. You’ll also learn about how to develop and use a mixed method research approach in a variety of situations.