Market research, particularly that which is home based or freelance, is a very popular way to earn an income, especially for stay at home parents, retirees and those without regular employment, as well as for those working a standard 9-5 who enjoy earning a little extra cash in the evenings and on weekends. However, the term 'market research' often confuses people as it's somewhat of a generic umbrella term covering many different types of tasks and assignments - which perhaps makes market research one of the most varied, unpredictable, interesting and exciting jobs available on a casual basis.
Why Do Companies Use Market Researchers?
Many companies, regardless of whether they're a new start up business or a multinational corporate brand, and who rely on the selling of products or services to the general public, use market researchers. Market research can help companies grow in a number of ways; by allowing them to understand the current state of the market and economy, helping them connect with their target audience and broaden their target demographic, and helping them identify gaps in the market for future endeavours. Here's how market research can benefit a business:
Current State of the Market and Economy
Sometimes, products and services fly off the shelves, other times they don't. Why? Is it because the offerings aren't good enough, is it because there's too much local competition, or is it simply due to economical reasons and their being no call for the product or service on offer? Indeed, any one (or all) of these reasons could apply, so it's important for companies to pinpoint the cause so that they can either put more resources into marketing the product or service to the target demographic or work on adjusting the offering to fit in with the needs of the general public and the economy at that specific time, whether that means adding more features, better support, increased customer service, or offering the products and services at a reduced cost.
Connecting with Target Audiences
When companies begin to develop a new product or service, they always have a target demographic in mind, whether this be according to age, gender, class or occupation. The disadvantage of developing a generic product is that it is unlikely to appeal to the general public specifically, whereas the advantage of working to a particular audience means that, although some demographics may be excluded, others are attracted to the brand. This is why perfume adverts often contain hunky men; they've been developed to appeal to women in particular. Market research can help establish the best ways to connect with these demographics, and can also help identify ways in which other groups can be included, widening the spectrum of potential customers.
With local, national and international competition all posing challenges for companies launching new products or services, market research can help to identify gaps in the market that could pave the way towards future developments. When creating a new product or service, it's important to try to establish whether the offering will be relevant and accepted when it is launched, whether that be days, weeks, months or even years away. Market research can look at past and current trends to make a reasonably accurate estimation as to how the market will continue to change over time, allowing companies a rare insight into what products will sell well in the future.
What Does a Market Researcher Do?
What doesn't a market researcher do? A market researcher wears many hats, performing a variety of tasks, duties and assignments depending on what each individual company needs. Here is just a small selection of what market researchers could be asked to do:
Big name brands often use online survey companies to gauge consumer reaction to new ideas for potential products to determine whether or not they will sell. Re-branding concepts are also frequently run through the survey route before any drastic changes are made to ensure that both potential and existing clients will accept the amendments.
Online surveys are available through a number of third party agencies and can be taken in the comfort of your own home. These survey can take anything from just a couple of minutes to over one hour to complete.
Focus groups are the in-person alternative to the online survey. A focus group involves a group of people getting together at a particular location, with these people either being a blend of different demographics or a single demographic that has been carefully selected. Participants will often be shown a physical product, or a visual advertisement, and will be asked a number of questions regarding how connected to the product they felt; why they did or didn't like it, and how it could be improved.
Focus groups often take a bit more effort to become a part of compared to online surveys, and they typically take longer - up to a number of hours - but they generally pay better, too.
Mystery shopping is a popular form of market research for retail establishments, and acts as a way of bettering the service provided in each individual store. Mystery shoppers will often be required to enter a specific store at an agreed time, buying products or asking for assistance, and leaving the store without revealing their identity. During this time, mystery shoppers will usually be required to make notes regarding the general look of the store, both inside and out, whether the store is clean and organised, whether they have suitable facilities for customers, such as hygienic bathrooms in restaurants, and if the staff are helpful, knowledgeable and kind.
There's quite a bit to mystery shopping, as detailed reports are required and these need to be accurate and timely, but this is an excellent way to enter into the market research world.
What Qualifications are Needed for the Job?
The great thing about market research is that, in many cases, no qualifications are required to partake in activities and earn an income. In the case of online surveys and focus groups, the most important aspect is that participants are part of a specific demographic, which is why there are often a number of screening questions to answer before being accepted into a survey.
An exception comes with mystery shopping. Although no official qualifications are required, many mystery shopping companies do have challenging tasks that need to be passed with excellent results before a shopper will gain access to the assignments of offer. This is because mystery shopping reports need to be as accurate as possible, as inconsistencies could be harmful to the store. The tasks are often visual, focusing on attention to detail, understanding of detailed instructions, and organisational skills.
How Much Do People Earn as Market Researchers?
Market research can be an excellent way of earning some extra cash, the problem is that as this work is often done on a freelance or work from home basis, the availability of jobs is sporadic and a regular income is not guaranteed. While a market researcher could bring in a large amount one month, they could bring in nothing the following month, so it's important to have a backup, rather than relying solely upon market research jobs when it comes to paying the bills.
Here's what the average market researcher could expect to earn based on different assignments:
- Online Surveys: Around one dollar for a 15 minute survey
- Focus Groups: Around 20 dollars for a 1 hour focus group
- Mystery Shopping: Around 10 dollars per assignment, plus expenses
Is There Any Job Progression?
Although there is no definite job progression due to many market research jobs being advertised on a casual basis, some companies do offer more interesting and better paid jobs to established workers and those who have proven to have the necessary skills required for specific tasks. Starting out with online surveys, many market researchers do look into further opportunities, such as product testing, once they become confident. Product testing can be an excellent way to help shape the future of new products, and is one of the most sought after market research roles as workers are often able to keep the product afterwards.
How to Avoid Market Research Scams
As market research is often a work from home job, it does fall prey to many work from home scams that do the rounds on the internet. It's therefore important to use common sense when searching for jobs, and back out if anything smells a bit fishy. Generally, the biggest warning sign to look out for is the need to enter any payment details or personal information beyond the standard name, age and address. Use the internet to establish whether or not a company is a scam, and research suitable companies in depth before signing up.