Understanding the market is the key to any successful business, but there are many different ways to ultimately gain that market intelligence. From focus groups to big data, the methodologies can vary drastically in style, execution, and results. But the objectives of these exercises remain pretty universal: gather accurate data, analyze it for insights, and turn those consumer insights into better business decisions. The same can be said of market research and market analytics, though they go about it in different ways.
Market Research: Answering Questions with More Questions
Market research refers to feedback gathered directly from the source and typically deployed to address strategic questions surrounding brand management, product development, and consumer perceptions. Studies are designed to elicit frank assessments from your target audience, as well as to accurately discern attitudes and values by having consumers actually articulate their beliefs. Brands can ask consumers whatever they like, and work with researchers to probe participants in qualitative research for more detail or explanation. They can even track consumers’ usage habits or shopping behavior in real time, thanks to online and mobile capabilities. The combination of qualitative and quantitative insights builds a more holistic view of consumers, allowing for more comprehensive and targeted positioning, advertising, and messaging. But the more customer insights a brand accrues, the more it may realize it doesn’t yet know.
Market Analytics: From Measuring Business to Measuring Consumers
In the past, market analytics referred to the measurements taken from systemic analysis of the health of a business—things like sales data and profitability levels for product lines—and set internal teams on the right course based on the success of previous tactics. But just like pretty much everything, the internet changed that. The overwhelming availability of information has prompted businesses to use it to increase marketing efficiency, as opposed to just improving sales tactics. Market analytics has now come to mean the information captured by all the relevant online data that has been gathered and integrated into a consumer’s profile, like purchase history and contact info. And it is this valuable addition to customer knowledge that drives these two disciplines together.
Research and Analytics: Primary and Secondary Research
Instead of focusing on the differences between market research and market analytics, it makes a lot more sense to think of them as two separate phases of consumer investigation. Market research is a form of primary research, taken from the source and providing firsthand evidence; market analytics is a form of secondary research, a summary of descriptive documentation and synthesis of data drawn from a number of sources. That’s not to say that either of the two cannot function on their own: both can be gathered directly from consumers and ultimately analyzed through their own lens. Maybe a company prefers the intimacy of qualitative studies, or perhaps they only have the budget for mining social data.
But when the two are leveraged together, their advantages amplify each other. While market research captures what your consumers want you to hear by verbalizing experience, market analytics offer the online behavior and patterns that consumers might not think to share, and keeps it all in a consolidated database. You can use the two together to validate that your online data matches your offline data; that is, your analytics reflect your research, and vice versa.
Both disciplines have evolved drastically in recent years, but thinking of them on different playing fields only limits each of their potential. Market research and market analytics should be wielded as a two-pronged weapon, joining primary and secondary research to build an even more comprehensive view of the consumer, ensuring you are delivering the right messages to the right consumer at the right time. Here is an example of how Endangered Species Chocolate combined primary and secondary data to see a holistic picture of their consumers and how to effectively reach them.