While the Internet offers a wide variety of places to conduct market research, the kind of data you get can be somewhat limited. Online market research is no substitute for face-to-face contact with your customers. Additionally, not all segments of the population spend a great deal of time online. You might need to reach them offline.
Offline market research methods have been around for a long time and they use strategies that are proven to yield results. Here are a few of the best methods for gathering data about your market offline.
Surveys are still the most effective when done in person. In-person surveys can be done in any public area that gets a lot of traffic. Many businesses prefer shopping malls since people are there to look at products and already have shopping on their minds. In-person surveys have a high response rate that can be as much as 90%. An advantage of this method is that you can show people products and they can physically try them out before giving you a response. In-person surveys require quite a bit of human resources, but they’re much more effective than other easier methods such as telephone or mail surveys.
Focus groups are small groups of people who meet to informally discuss your products. A group can be anywhere from five to ten people. As the moderator, you lead the discussion using scripted questions and topics related to your business. Aside from discussion, you may also ask them to do role-playing exercises or other projective techniques. A focus group meeting usually lasts a couple of hours and there may also be a few follow-up meetings.
The data you get from focus groups is more in-depth and personal, but it’s also more subjective. You’ll come away with words, images, feelings, and impressions, not hard statistical data.
Sometimes it’s best to observe shoppers in their natural habitat. When you conduct surveys or focus groups, you put people on the spot. There’s the risk they may tell you what they think you want to hear. Observation shows you their real behavior. Some researchers observe shoppers and then attempt to conduct follow-up interviews. There are some research companies who even use hidden cameras to record shoppers and gather information about numbers and patterns of behavior.
Live events mix entertainment and market research. The idea is to get the participants as engaged in the event as possible. Live events are often used in a new type of market research called ‘engagement marketing,’ which mixes live elements, face-to-face contact, and online activities to help consumers feel actively engaged with your brand.
Offline and Online Market Research
Both offline and online market research methods have their advantages, but the best strategy is to use both. They’ll reveal different data to you about your target market. While online market research gives you the chance to gather information quickly and cheaply, offline research gives you more access to primary sources of information and yields more in-depth results. It’s best not to rely on only one if you want to minimize your risk and maximize your chances for success.