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Online market research provides window into target audiences

SETPEMBER 8, 2011 – Companies seeking to get a clearer sense of what their existing and prospective customers want should consider conducting market research with a survey, in-person focus group, online marketing panel or other research method, according to Industry Today.

The news source outlines several ways that businesses can garner this kind of information from target audiences, including using online market research to inform product and branding decisions, and direct surveys to get metrics on market behavior.

By achieving a deeper understanding of the market that’s out there, businesses may be able to boost sales and performance. “The existing competition you may face and the kind of strategies you may have to counter and maneuvers by competitors to eat into your client base are certain things you become wary about even before you begin,” Industry Today says.

Social media is another way to take the pulse of consumer sentiment, with websites such as Twitter and Tumblr growing popular among consumers and brands alike. One sector that is starting to pay more attention to social media activity is the restaurant industry, QSR Web reports.

Some food service companies are using the sites to communicate directly with their customers and increase awareness and knowledge of their businesses, according to the website. It gives the example of a social media entrepreneur, Peter Shankman, who was met at a gate of the Newark Airport by a Morton’s Steakhouse waiter carrying a steak, two hours after he had tweeted “Hey @Mortons – can you meet me at the newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks :).”

While not every company will be able to monitor the social media conversation surrounding its brand so closely, the example shows how these websites can be a means for businesses to understand their customers’ mindsets, learn about their behavior and what they respond to, and turn that around into actionable marketing.

For the restaurant industry, surveying the discussions that occur on social review websites such as Yelp, Google Places and OpenTable offers another means of conducting market research and determining what works and what needs improvement. QSR Web points to a Market Force study that found the number of people who have read a Tweet, blog post or review increased to 61 percent this year, up from last year’s 48 percent.

“Restaurants need to focus time and attention on what’s being said about them, and stay on top of this explosive growth of content. It’s not just Twitter and Facebook anymore,” Janet Eden-Harris, Market Force’s CMO and senior vice president of strategy, told the website.