It’s been around 100 years since market research was first used. In that time, it has risen in prominence to become a standard mechanism for most large organisations and SMEs.The reason behind its popularity is that it gives businesses the opportunity to better understand what your target audience thinks and feels about your brand, product, messaging and more.
Furthermore, it can also be used to ascertain how they perceive your competitors’ propositions and activities. Therefore, helping you to make objective comparisons and draw conclusions which in turn can inform your future strategies.
Typically, it consists of qualitative and quantitative research using surveys, telephone interviews, focus groups, face-to-face interviews, group and individual exercises and more. It often focuses on answering set questions about set audience groups such as the following:
- How do 18-25 year olds think and feel about our new app feature?
- How do women prefer to shop online for [product type]?
- What do people in the UK think are the strengths and weaknesses of our product?
However, there are limits with market research, which means that your strategies are only partially informed if you solely rely on it. In this article, we’ll examine how market research and competitive intelligence complement one another, and the 5 key reasons why businesses should utilise both of them when devising internal strategies.
Differences between market research and competitive intelligence
Market research is focused on gathering insights into consumer preferences, opinions or sentiments towards specific things (products, services, people, etc.). It answers known questions and provides answers that reinforce or conflict with assumptions held within the business. The data it generates doesn’t exist until market research has taken place.
Competitive intelligence, on the other hand, is about tracking what’s happening in the market in real time. It often focuses on competitor activity and news alongside head-to-head comparisons between your brand and theirs.
Competitive Intelligence gathers data that already exists, as it comes into existence rather than finding answers to a predetermined question. For example, it can alert you when a competitor launches a new product or product feature that could pose a threat to your revenue.
How is competitive intelligence performed?
Competitive intelligence is typically performed using software that automates the monitoring process. It is set up to track the activity and news of identified competitors across specific channels, such as social media, websites, third-party publications, review sites, financial performance tables and more.
Competitive intelligence tools have replaced manual monitoring processes that were more commonly performed ad hoc. This process was slow and labour-intensive. It took a long time to get valuable insights into the hands of departments that could use it to inform their strategic choices.
There were also problems with analysing data due to those being asked to perform the process lacking the necessary experience to draw relevant conclusions, making it less valuable to the organisation.
The latest competitive intelligence software has revolutionised this process. They have made it faster and easier to track competitors than ever before while the intelligence provided is more comprehensive and complete. Many tools also offer market analysts who manage the set-up and initial analysis of any data gathered, saving you time, effort and resources.
The case for combining market research and competitive intelligence
Market research continues to be viewed as a valuable undertaking. In 2021, the global revenue of the market research industry exceeded $76billion – double that of 2008.
Competitive intelligence doesn’t replace what market research provides. Instead, it offers a range of complementary benefits that market research can’t give you. We’ve compiled a short list of those benefits to help you understand how market research and competitive intelligence can work together.
1. Real-time knowledge
Unlike market research, competitive intelligence focuses on what’s happening in the market in real-time. It is the fastest way to learn about the things competitors are doing and saying and what impact that’s having on consumer sentiment and behaviour.
2. Unearth valuable insights
While market research goes looking for answers to specific questions, competitive intelligence is capable of producing insights you may never have thought to look for. Whether it’s a leadership shake-up at a direct competitor or a sudden change in review score for a market leader, you can capture valuable insights the minute they happen.
3. Gather naturally-occurring insights
Market research is typically a staged environment, which can be a benefit and a hindrance. It can help you dig deeper into consumer sentiment but it can also present unnatural answers, especially as people find it hard to express their feelings in words. Competitive intelligence asks nothing of consumers. It gathers what’s already out there and provides insights through expert analysis.
4. Observe how opinions correlate with facts
Competitive intelligence is used to track and surface factual data, from social media follower and engagement numbers to consumer review scores and product news. It offers clarity around important metrics that can be used to identify threats and opportunities. As market research is about understanding preferences and opinions towards brands, products and services, it can provide the context behind the data.
5. Share insights in between market research reports
The market research process will often result in a report of findings. Given the scale of many market research projects, this can take time (and numerous people) to put together. While undoubtedly valuable, by the time it’s shared with relevant stakeholders, the data is no longer new. A lot could’ve changed in the market.
Competitive intelligence plugs that gap by surfacing insights on a continuous basis. It means nothing is being missed while reports are being created.
Conclusion: using market research and competitive intelligence
Together market research and competitive intelligence can transform your organisation’s strategic decision-making and campaign effectiveness. Furthermore it can give you a complete and deeper understanding of consumer sentiment, the competitor landscape and market trends.
Therefore, should there be resources available to utilise both market research and competitive intelligence services, it’s advisable to proceed. Doing so can certainly help you become a smarter organisation and gain a competitive advantage over your competitors.