Market research can be an expensive endeavour and we realise that not all companies are able to afford access to some of the more premium services available. Conducting your market research online is one way to save on costs – however this is not the only benefit. Online research provides opportunities to get closer to your target consumers’ point of purchase and access a wealth of information that may not have been previously available.
However, navigating this vast amount of data can be a tricky task. There is a skill in being able to recognise the difference between useful, valuable information and the masses of irrelevant material. To make this process easier, we have gathered together ten of the most useful (and trustworthy) sources of free online consumer research, to help get your ideas off the ground.
This great resource can be one of the most helpful research tools on the internet – provided you use it in the right way. Google Trends requires no sign up, and is easily accessible. It provides information on the most commonly searched terms on the web. This can be great for understanding what is relevant to your target market on a near real-time basis. The main opportunity that this information provides involves being able to capitalise on current trends to promote or raise awareness of your brand.
There are limited options to edit the information provided, or even tailor it to your specific niche. However, perhaps the most powerful tool is the Graph Explorer. This allows you to add your own search terms for Google to analyse. The result is a graph showing relative interest over time, including news headlines and issues surrounding the subject. The data is further broken down into regional interest, related searches, and exact search terms. You can drill into this data more by editing the geographic and temporal targeting of the search to your exact needs.
Trendwatching provides a similar service to Google Trends, however rather than allowing you to explore the data for yourself, it provides free publications on nearly any topic. The website provides reports on regional consumers, as well as uniquely tailored publications to tackle nearly any contemporary topic. There is a goldmine of free information provided in the reports and it can be used to further understand the market you are operating in, or even form the basis of a forward thinking strategy.
One report in particular that we would recommend to anybody looking to understand general consumer trends and how they are changing is the 10 Trends for 2015. This highlights ten important opportunities for innovation that businesses can make use of and integrate into their current strategies.
Think with Google is similar in concept to Trendwatching. It archives a huge amount of free reports and publications on a range of consumer issues. You are able to search reports by either industry or platform, giving you greater control over the data you are researching.
One additional feature that has sparked a significant amount of interest is the Creative Sandbox. This is a showcase of innovative ideas that different companies are using to target and advertise to various consumers. Once again, you are able to browse this by industry or platform. The Creative Sandbox really is at the cutting edge of technology and is a fantastic source of creative inspiration, as well as technical information.
Omgili is a simple tool, but one that is great for monitoring consumer opinion of your brand, product or service. The purpose of this tool is to search a huge list of discussion forums and message boards for any specified keyword. Searching the name of your brand (or even competitor’s brand) gives you the ability to effectively measure brand sentiment. By combining this tool with some basic analytics, it becomes very easy to measure the public favourability towards your brand in addition to how content is filtering through the internet.
Spezify is similar in concept to Omgili. It is a simple search engine that makes the measurement of brand sentiment and web presence an easy process. However, rather than searching message boards and forums, Spezify searches online social media. The result is a mood board style results page that provides links to pictures with your keyword in the anchor text. Pictures are collated from a wide range of sources including Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, eBay and more.
Combining the results from Omgili and Spezify can provide a fantastic overview of brand presence. In a digital age where dyadic conversations between business and the consumer are becoming a thing of the past, regaining control and being able to understand consumer interaction with your brand is a powerful tool and can help shape future brand strategies.
The YouGov profiler is one of our favourite entries to this list. It seems, at first glance, similar to Google Trends. However, the insights it can provide are much more detailed and targeted at your specific audience. Start by searching an existing brand, personality or object. YouGov will then spend a few moments building you an aggregated profile of the average consumer based on your search. The kind of information provided ranges from basic demographic to personality and lifestyle factors. You can even discover what other brands are popular with the average consumer, and what media they consume.
To make the most effective use of this research tool, we would suggest either researching your own brand and analysing whether the results match your expectations, or researching competitors to identify gaps in the market that can easily be filled.
7. Consumer Barometer
The Consumer Barometer is our third entry on this list from Google: the masters of free, accessible data. The aim of this service is to help you understand consumers’ internet usage habits across the world. There are two distinctly different ways to use this tool. The first is to explore the key findings from the research. Provided in animated infographic format, this sums up the key trends & statistics that will help you understand consumers’ internet usage habits.
The second way of using this tool is the Graph Builder. This is a powerful tool that allows you to access the full data from the report. Broken down into country grouping, you are able to explore how consumers interact online and build these findings into your own research.
While in many aspects Statista are paid services, there is also a lot of data sources that you are able to access for free. Simply enter your search terms on the homepage and browse the numerous reports on offer. This tool is fantastic for researching industries and understanding the nature of the competition. Free information includes the relative size of an industry, average expenditures, and even individual company expenditures.
Alexa is another great tool for researching a competitive market; however the information provided generally refers to a company’s web presence rather than necessarily its performance as a whole. This tool can be used to either research the position of your own web presence, or that of your key competitors. You can also see in what aspects you outrank your competitors and vice versa, which can form the basis for target and goal setting activities.
Some of the information provided by Alexa includes: audience demographics, geographic breakdowns, web traffic analysis and related sites. It is worth noting however that not all websites will be able to access Alexa’s data depending on their size, so when conducting your research, try to focus on your larger and more prominent competitors.
For more detailed online consumer research, you can book a free trial of our unique FlexMR software. We offer a dedicated platform that is capable of hosting both qual and quant research simultaneously for even greater results. Our flexible tools and service levels mean that you can mix and match tools to suit your exact needs and pay only for what you need. This system is capable of accommodating any type of research community, panel or ad hoc activity with online research tools spanning the entire qual and quant spectrum, social and mobile integration and available in over 60 languages.
Our clients have enjoyed the benefits of easily being able to add extra tools to the platform in a quick and effective manner, as well as generating rich insights that have helped build business strategies, competitive market analyses and more.
What are your preferred online research tools? There is a huge amount of free data available online and we know we have only just scratched the surface with this list, so let us know what tools you would recommend in the comments below.