Market Research in 2021 – Time for Change?


 Timely information is a reliable rudder during changing times, yet we often get comfortable in predictable routines when it comes to our market insights efforts.  We default to the same old satisfaction survey or a focus group without giving it much thought. Taking a different or fuller approach to how you evaluate markets, customers, and prospects can reveal opportunities or competitive challenges you have not noticed before.  It will keep you on top of the changing landscape in 2021.  

Consider some of the following ways to freshen up your insights program for the coming year. 


The Who

Who you choose to conduct research with always lends some bias to the results. Do you typically gather feedback from key decision-makers or buyers only?  Talking with influencers who help evaluate or recommend along the consideration process may provide different insights.  Research with the actual end-users of the product or service you provide will give you another valuable perspective.  

Are you focused on customer data only?  In 2021, add prospects into the mix and learn more about your competitors or different personas you are not currently attracting.  If you are a non-profit organization that typically looks at perceptions of donors or clients, think about gathering feedback from your volunteers.   

We often get stuck in rut when thinking about the profile of a typical customer. For example, if you usually focus your market insights on women ages 35 to 49, add into your research men or women who are younger and older than your demographic. It could reveal new opportunities.  

The What

Do you track your NPS score each year? While there is great value in tracking satisfaction and other measures, think about what else you can investigate to provide context or deliver richer and more actionable insights. For example, you might dive into psychological attitudes or explore brand perceptions.  Using different analytical tools, such as Kano analysis, will help you understand what is currently driving customer satisfaction, not just where you rate on a scale.  

If you tend to analyze customer purchase data to guide decisions, complement this information with an analysis of social media comments or conducting brand research.  To understand your share of wallet, expand on your purchase data by asking customers who else they buy from and what percentage of purchases go to each company.   

The How

Surveys and focus groups are proven methods for gaining data or insights. There are many other ways, however, to build your knowledge of market needs and opportunities. Each offers its own advantages. Evaluate how these alternatives can help your organization see a different side of your customer or prospect, or better understand their purchase behaviors, customer experience, or brand loyalty: 

  • Individual in-depth interviews, conducted online, via phone, or in-person 
  • Shop-alongs  
  • Online discussion boards 
  • Online journaling programs 
  • Video diaries
  • In-home or in-business ethnographies or observations 

For example, the insights gained from a survey with grain producers about their planting equipment can be very different than what you might learn with in-person, on-farm visits during planting season. 

The When 

If your research tends to take place at the same time of the year, simply switching that timing up may be interesting.  If you sell tax preparation software, you may hear very different things from research conducted during tax season versus other times.  

If you tend to gather data at certain points in the customer relationship, for example, with a satisfaction survey after a purchase, think about conducting research with people at other points in the buying or product usage journey.  For example, when we conducted research for a decking manufacturer, we included consumers who had replaced a deck in the last three years, were currently in the purchase consideration process, and were planning on building or replacing a deck in the next three years.  

We all realize that the world has shifted in 2020 and the old one is not coming back, at least not 100%. The best way to understand your organization’s best path forward is to understand the changes and impacts as fully as you can.  As you put your market insights plan together for 2021, think about how a change in your typical methods, questions, participants, or timing might provide a broader or more strategic look. 

It could give you a distinct advantage in the coming years.

If you would like to have a conversation about re-energizing your market insights efforts, get in touch.  We are happy to share our perspective, no obligation.  You can reach Linda Kuster, President, Vernon Research Group, at or 319-364-7278, x7104.