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A guide to consumer research for small and medium businesses

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Navigating the pearls and pitfalls of consumer research

Consumer research is particularly valuable, but can be taxing on company resources. Often, small and medium businesses don’t have the luxury of in-house consumer insight support and have to rely on consultant market research companies. Recently, Consumer Solutions has been in discussion with SenseLab about the challenges small and medium businesses face with regards to consumer research. Considering the pearls and pitfalls of consumer research, this article will help guide businesses in their decision to undertake consumer research.

When to consider consumer research?

  • Prior to making strategic product or brand decisions which can range from a concept idea to a new label design. This approach will help understand consumer perception and likability of the product or concept before investing in costly new product development on commercial scale.

  • To gain insight on consumers’ perception of your brand within a category and against major competitors. This approach could, for example, help to evaluate whether current marketing efforts are effective and aligned with core values.

  • To improve product performance/service/sales. Consumer research will help to identify attributes that are important to the target market, but underperforms.

How to interpret and integrate technical results into business strategy?

  • Make sure the assigned market researcher is also a product or category specialist that can work with your team to assist with integration of research results into strategy.

  • Ideally, the researcher should also have a bigger picture understanding of the business objectives, target market needs and expectations, trends as well as hidden variables. The consumer research findings should, therefore, not be used in isolation to drive decision-making.

  • Always ask for a presentation on the results, allowing time for a Q & A session.

Consumer research can be costly. Where can businesses save in the process?

  • Managing expectations and communication are key. Businesses should be clear on what they would like to have addressed and what are the main problem(s). Without a proper understanding of what the real issue is, research findings can be unsatisfying and costly to all role-players.

  • The market researcher should do a needs analysis, formulate a proposal and methodology with objectives; clearly stipulating the questions that will be answered by the consumer research. This way, each consumer research project will be unique. Steer away from a “one approach fits all” which might only provide generic results.

  • Businesses should be part of the research process, e.g. to have input in the design and testing of surveys, sharing responsibility to ensure that the value added by the research, outweighs the cost.


Consumer research is valuable when making strategic product decisions and can save businesses money. When considering consumer research, choose a market research company wisely; appoint consultant researchers that are also product or category specialists and clearly communicate the major issues that need to be addressed. To ensure research results have optimal impact, market researchers should collaborate with business teams throughout the consumer research process.


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