There are several different reasons that companies use market research, and these reasons change with the stage that the product a company is selling is in.
Before a product is introduced, a company uses market research to establish the needs of the targeted consumers. Once the actual selling begins, the company can use market research to find out how to generate hype about a new product.
Once finished, it becomes about improving the product’s performance. The final step is for the company to use further research to determine where to take the product in the future. This gives a company a sense of direction and indicates whether they are on the right track. Nearly all well-known companies can attribute some of their success to using market research to further their consumerism.1
It is well known that Lego has been a toy geared towards boys for many years. In a study done by the company, it was reported that only 9% of the primary users of the toy were female. Upon seeing this, the company decided to come out with a new product to entice more girls to play with Legos.
Lego sent out researchers to do a four year study involving 3,500 girls and their mothers. This market research included studying the girls’ playing habits and extensive questioning regarding what would make Legos more interesting for girls.
At the conclusion of the market research, Lego came out with a new line of toys on January 1st, 2012. This line was called “Friends”. The brick colors for this line were changed to more vibrant colors. The packaging also changed, along with the figurines included in the set. Figurines were made to be slightly bigger to accommodate accessories such as hairbrushes and purses in their grips. All of these changes were in line with what the market research data found to be more appealing.6
Apple has been the largest name in technology for years. This is not necessarily because they appear to be the most innovative. Instead, it is because they use market research to find out exactly what their customers want from their devices; they then figure out how to make those wants a reality.
Their “Apple Customer Pulse” research group is a prime example. Because they utilize online surveys, the company is able to compile and analyze the data faster, and the surveys are easy to administer, without much effort. This makes the market research more appealing to those that participate, as well as to the company.
These surveys have led to different designs and modifications of Apple products. Such modifications include having bigger screens to view videos and games more clearly.4
Nest is a company trying to reinvent several products normally found in the home. This company uses Google Consumer Surveys for their marketing research.
Their surveys include questions about how their current products are functioning, and what needs to be done to improve them. This allows any customer to give their feedback on Nest’s services and products. The surveys open up opportunities for Nest to quickly gain information from thousands of people on whatever they want.
One question they have asked their customers is “how high is your ceiling?” They asked this in order to get an average by which they could judge how large to make a certain appliance.
By incorporating the feedback that Nest is receiving by using online marketing research, Nest is able to improve the products and, in turn, improve their sales.2Note: Google acquired Nest in 2014. Mid-2019, Google re-branded the division as Google Nest.
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McDonald’s is one of the largest fast food chains in the world. In order to continue this trend, McDonald’s uses ongoing market research.
In their market research, they have narrowed their focus onto four different questions:
- Which products are well received?
- What prices are consumers willing to pay?
- What TV programs, newspapers and advertising consumers read and view?
- Which restaurants are most visited?
By answering these questions, McDonald’s is able to determine whether the pool of their target customers is growing or not.
One of the problems addressed by this research was if McDonald’s was serving healthy or organic food. As a result, the company launched a campaign to prove that their meat patties and chicken nuggets are real. They also have changed part of their menu to include healthier alternatives, such as apple slices.3
In 2003, Verizon Wireless became the leader in promoting the customer’s ability to keep their telephone numbers when switching carriers. This came from listening to several complaints and conducting research about something that customers wanted. The change had customers flocking to the network.5
In order to keep on the leading edge of consumerism, businesses must be willing to listen to customers. Whether it is over the phone, through the mail, online, or using focus groups, there is no excuse for companies to ignore market research. Technology is making online market research not only possible, but also a cheaper and more accurate way to conduct research. Not only can businesses provide services, but they can now know exactly which of their services are wanted and why.
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1. Cupman, Julia. “Using Market Research For Product Development | B2B International.” B2B International Using Market Research For Product Development Comments. B2B International, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <https://www.b2binternational.com/publications/product-development-research >.
2. “Home | Google Consumer Surveys.” Home | Google Consumer Surveys. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/home>.
3. “Marketing at McDonald’s.” McDonald’s Corporation, 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/content/dam/mcdonaldsuk/people/schools-and-students/mcd_marketing.pdf>.
4. Ong, Josh. “Apple Initiating.” “Customer Pulse” Market Research Focus Group. AppleInsider, 4 May 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/05/05/apple_initiates_customer_pulse_market_research_focus_group.html>.
5. Richtel, Matt. “In a Reversal, Verizon Backs Rule to Keep Cell Numbers.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 June 2003. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/25/business/technology-in-a-reversal-verizon-backs-rule-to-keep-cell-numbers.html>.
6. Trangbæk, Roar Rude. “About Us.” LEGO Group Commentary on Attracting More Girls to Construction Play. LEGO, 12 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/news-room/2012/january/lego-group-commentary-on-attracting-more-girls-to-construction-play>.
How common is it that ‘online surveys’ for big businesses discriminate against seniors (those over a certain age) by dismissing them immediately on the first question of age?
Thanks for your question. By their nature, online surveys are typically limited to respondents who fall within a particular age bracket, location, income level, etc. The idea behind this is that particular demographics can be identified who purchase certain products or services, and when a study is commissioned by a company, they will typically seek the answers of people who fall within this group.
It’s not that there is ‘discrimination’ per se, it’s that demographic segmentation ultimately yields the most accurate study results.
We’ve written more extensively about this topic here: https://www.surveypolice.com/blog/why-market-researchers-arent-racist/