The most important part of any market research effort is data gathering. The practice of data collection is more than just asking for information from a random sample of the population. Understanding the methods and processes involved in data gathering ensures you have reliable, rich data to inform your business decisions.
In this article, we’ll discuss the types of data, steps for collecting data, methods of data gathering, privacy considerations, and more.
Data gathering is the first and most important step in the research process, regardless of the type of research being conducted. It entails collecting, measuring, and analyzing information about a specific subject and is used by businesses to make informed decisions.
There are established processes for effective data gathering that use research to evaluate a previously defined hypothesis. We’ll discuss these later in this article.
Before we can start the discussion on data gathering, we need to review the types of data you can collect. All data can be divided into two categories, qualitative or quantitative. Further, data can be classified as first, second, or third-party.
This type of data can’t be measured or expressed as a number. It s less structured than quantitative data. Qualitative data is information acquired to understand more about a research subject’s underlying motivations—answering “how” and “why” questions. It is information that is descriptive in nature and can consist of words, pictures, or symbols, which is why it isn’t easily measurable.
Qualitative data is obtained through the answers to open-ended questions that allow study participants to answer in their own words. When asked on a survey, an open text box is used for answers.
Examples of questions that will yield qualitative data are:
How do you feel about using products from XYZ brand?
You indicated that you prefer product A. Why is that your favorite laundry detergent?
Quantitative data is structured and can be analyzed statistically. Expressed in numbers, the data can be used to measure variables. The results are objective and conclusive. Questions used to collect quantitative data are usually “how many,” “how much,” or “how often?”
Quantitative data can be measured by numerical variables, analyzed through statistical methods, and represented in charts and graphs.
How often do you purchase laundry detergent?
How many containers of laundry detergent do you purchase at one time?
Whether you need to conduct quantitative or qualitative research, SurveyMonkey Audience can connect you with the participants you need. This market research solution allows you to specify the demographics of your target audience and collect and analyze data efficiently and effectively.
First-party or primary data is collected directly from your research participants. It’s valuable data because it is gathered straight from your sources—which eliminates the issues of misinterpretation and errors. First-party data is the most useful and reliable data for your research.
Common sources of first-party data are:
The information you can collect from first-party sources includes demographics, purchasing behaviors, interests, purchasing habits, likes, dislikes, etc.
Second-party or secondary data is data that has already been collected by someone else in the past. It is less reliable because you cannot be certain of the methodology of the data collection. It also was performed with a different hypothesis in mind, so analyses may not align well with your research needs.
Common second-party data sources include:
Second-party data may be collected before primary data to help find knowledge gaps or to augment primary research data.
With third-party data, you’re looking at data sets that are put together from various sources. This type of data has usually been gathered by companies that don’t have direct relationships with consumers and is often sold on data marketplaces. The main benefit of third-party data is that it offers more scale than other data types.
Common sources of third-party data include:
Before you begin data gathering, you need to define your objectives and goals. You must determine exactly what you are looking for so that you have a direction for your research. Then, use the following steps for efficient data gathering.
For example, your objective may be to find out how consumers view your brand. You may test for brand awareness, loyalty, recognition, and image to gather data that will help you determine your overall brand health.
Once you have chosen a hypothesis, measurement, insight, exploration, or another goal for your research, it’s time to determine what information you need to meet your objective. Do you need quantitative data, qualitative data, or a mixed method to include both types?
After you’ve decided what data you need to collect, you need to choose from the various types of data collection methods, settling on the one that is best suited to your research. Consider the information you need to collect, the timeframe for collection, sample size, and any other aspects of your research that factor into how data is collected. We’ll discuss data-gathering methods shortly, so keep this in mind.
Once you’ve determined your goal, outlined the data you need, and chosen your data-gathering method, it’s time to start gathering your data. Follow your data collection methodology to ensure the validity of your data.
If you use SurveyMonkey to collect survey data for your research, we’ll collect the responses for you. Your customizable data dashboard collects data in real-time, so you can view results as they come in.
For other data-gathering methods, you can use spreadsheets or similar tools to record data.
An analysis is the process of taking your raw data and turning it into actionable insights. These insights, depending on your research goals, will support and enhance your marketing efforts and enable you to make informed business decisions.
SurveyMonkey has several analysis features that help you dig deeper into the data. We provide multiple ways to filter results, charts, graphs, crosstab reports, sentiment analysis, benchmarks, and more. If you’ve collected your survey data with us, these analysis tools are right at your fingertips.
As we’ve mentioned, there are several ways to gather data for your market research. Let’s look at the most common methods, including surveys, forms, interviews, focus groups, observation, and online tracking.
You can ask your customers directly for answers to your questions with surveys. Surveys can be created with a variety of question types designed to provide you with the answers you require for your research. Questions may be quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of both. Surveys may be conducted online, via email, telephone, or in person. The easiest, most efficient way to administer surveys is online.
Market research surveys are affordable and provide reliable information for your research. They can be used for:
We also give many collection mode options to choose from, including mobile device surveys, SMS surveys, and QR codes.
Online forms are another way to reach your research participants. They may be set up to collect a wide range of information, both qualitative and quantitative.
Depending on what format and tool you use, you may have options for sorting and analyzing your data.
Forms are useful for collecting demographic information, gated content, or handling registrations for events.
Using a trained moderator to interview individuals on a one-to-one basis is a more expensive and time-consuming method for data gathering.
The benefits of in-person interviews include the ability to view nonverbal cues, ask clarifying questions, and use physical items to aid in the review of product features, etc. This method is also more in-depth and provides a high degree of confidence in the data.
A disadvantage of interviews, in addition to time and expense, is the potential for bias if the interviewee perceives that the interviewer will be pleased with a certain type of response.
Similar to in-person interviews, focus groups involve face-to-face discussions with a moderator or facilitator. Rather than being individual sessions, the discussions take place in a group.
In focus groups, you run the risk of a participant with a strong opinion swaying the opinions of other group members. The moderator must be able to keep the group on-task and unbiased.
Observation can take the form of using a tool (analytics) to find out how users behave on your website or in-person observation. In-person observation may be observing how consumers move through your physical store.
In-person observation is a slow, difficult method of data collection. If the subjects of your observation are aware of being observed, they may behave differently than they normally would. This method can only realistically be used for small sample sizes.
Tracking pixels and cookies are used to track users’ behaviors online. This reveals the content they are interested in and engage with. Both pixels and cookies are inexpensive (or free) and easy to implement. Once they are set, they gather data on their own and need little maintenance. But before you start preparing to use online tracking, you need to make sure you’re using this data-gathering method in a legal, ethical way.
Recent changes have led to changes in online tracking. You now need to ask users to indicate their preferences when they visit your website. If many of your users prefer not to accept cookies, it will make online tracking much less useful.
Certainly with online tracking, but also with other methods of data collection, you must be aware of the ethics and legalities of keeping your users' and participants’ information safe. Most internet users are wary of sharing personal information, so keep this in mind when preparing to gather data (especially if you are going to ask sensitive questions).
Ensure that your data-gathering method allows you to receive and store personal information safely. To avoid the issue, make your participant responses anonymous and refrain from asking for sensitive information.
Before you ask for any information, make your participants aware of how you will use their data and what you’re doing to ensure their privacy throughout the research process. This will help put participants at ease and allow them to feel safe and comfortable with your research process. This, in turn, will increase your response rate.
Also, before you begin your research, ensure that you and anyone involved in your research are aware of the legal implications and requirements for storing information. Compliance standards for data protection and privacy vary by location, so look up the standards where you’re performing your research.
In market research, data gathering is necessary to understand your target market. There are multiple methods for gathering data, but whatever method you choose, ensure that you’re prepared to collect and store the collected data safely and privately.
If you’re prepared to use the survey method to gather data, take a look at SurveyMonkey Audience. We’ll connect you with the target audience you want at the scale you need and collect the data safely.
Audience is just one of our many market research solutions, designed to help you collect the data you need to make informed business decisions. Get started with your first survey today!