Surveys are a commonly used market-research tool used to collect information, ideas and opinions from consumers. They can be distributed in person, by mail or online. When completed in person, respondents generally do not include their names on surveys to preserve anonymity. Surveys questions have a variety of formats, from short answer and multiple choice to true or false. Oftentimes, companies offer incentives like coupons, free products or gift certificates to respondents.
One-on-one interviews can be held over the phone or through web video conferencing software. A company representative speaks with a customer to get honest feedback about everything from product pricing to product design.Companies use focus groups to help determine the most effective marketing messages to send to potential customers, select flavors for products, develop pricing, select packaging and even to assist with naming products and services. Focus groups are also formed after a product is released to get feedback from a group of individuals who represent the target market. Focus groups are similar to one-on-one interviews, except that they typically include a group of 6 to 10 people. Participants are asked a series of questions by a facilitator who moderates the discussion.
Blogs and social networks give consumers an opportunity to express their opinions without a survey or interview. Customers are more willing to share their true feelings about brands, products and ideas through these networks, so it's important that businesses use these sites as a tool for market research. Company blogs provide consumers with a way to provide businesses with immediate feedback on the information they post by leaving comments or replying to polls.Social networks like Twitter offer search features that also allow companies to browse for customers or potential customers that mention their products.