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Market research methods

You can find out more about the customers you are trying to reach if you use market research effectively. You have a choice of different methods, depending on what your product or service is and how much time and money you are able to spend.

When conducting market research, you may be trying to study:

Here is a list of some popular approaches, with information on when and how to use each most effectively.

Table of Contents


Surveys involve asking a series of questions to a sample of the target population that is large enough to be statistically valid. Surveys generally offer primarily closed-ended questions, although some open-ended questions may be included. Surveys can be administered by mail, telephone, email, Internet or in person.

Best uses


Focus groups

Focus groups are moderated group interviews and brainstorming sessions that provide information on users' needs and behaviours.

Best uses

Focus groups can be useful for the following types of discussions:


Personal interviews

Personal interviews are semi-structured discussions with an individual. They include open-ended questions where the interviewer can probe further to understand underlying perceptions and behaviours.

Best uses

Personal interviews are a more expensive alternative to focus groups and are generally used in the following situations:


Task analysis

Task analysis seeks to understand the thought process and actions of participants in order to improve the design of a website or tool. The participant is given a specific task to perform, and the interviewer observes and notes where the participant runs into problems and where he or she is successful. It is different from usability testing, as it is not testing the usability of a website.

Best uses

Task analysis can be helpful in understanding how people currently use your website (or other websites). Using this approach, the participant is given a specific task to perform. For example, buy a particular product or find the location of a nearby store that sells your product.


All of this information can be used to draw process diagrams and illustrate the processes and approaches used by participants. You may find that several common approaches were used.

Usability testing

Usability tests are structured interviews that focus on the usability of specific features of a website or other user interface.

Best uses

Usability testing is best used to evaluate prototypes of planned websites or planned changes to an existing website. It is used to evaluate the interface and to note any problems faced by users, in order to give feedback to developers.


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