Every marketing or insights professional accumulates a good understanding of their consumer or customer over time. But what happens when the brand wants to expand into new markets it doesn’t know? Then you have to resort to exploratory research to find out everything that is important to succeed in the expansion. Discover all the keys!
What is exploratory research?
Exploratory research is a type of market research that creates an initial snapshot of new markets you want to start operating in.
Exploratory research is often used as the first phase of a broader research process. In this initial phase, initial hypotheses about the most important aspects of the market are collected, validated, or discarded. Everything revealed as important can be studied in more depth in the next phase.
Exploratory market research: When to do it?
Exploratory market research is necessary whenever a brand decides to expand into new markets where it has not previously operated.
Let’s think about this expansion broadly, which can include:
- Entry into a new geographical market. Assuming that other markets work the same way as the local market is a mistake that can be fatal. Consumers don’t think, feel, act, or buy the same way in every country. For example, when it comes to sustainability in food, English consumers first think about reducing plastic in packaging, while French consumers think about choosing local products that don’t require transportation.
- Expansion to a new target audience or a new use. Different consumers have different needs, and to make it more complicated, we all have different needs depending on the use of the product we want to make. For example, a bicycle brand looking to expand into personal mobility solutions needs to investigate what is important to urban cyclists, which is likely very different from what cycling enthusiasts value in their bikes.
- Newly created brand. If you are creating a new brand to launch in the market, there will be many things you need to find out to make the right strategic decisions.
In all these cases, exploratory research will serve to create that first outline, make the initial decisions, and list everything that needs to be found out in the next phases of research.
Designing exploratory research
The most common objective of exploratory research is to discover and understand, rather than quantify, different realities. That’s why qualitative research methodologies are often used in exploratory research. Quantitative methodologies like online surveys are also used occasionally in exploratory research, although they are much more common in a second phase.
Qualitative exploratory research
Among the most common methodologies in exploratory research are in-depth interviews and focus groups.
- In-depth interviews: are interviews, generally conducted online, where a moderator gathers the perspectives of an individual. Typically, a certain number of in-depth interviews are conducted to have a diversity of viewpoints. They work particularly well with sensitive topics or those requiring a high degree of reflection, as well as with professional audiences in B2B market research.
- Focus groups: Here, interviews are conducted collectively with a group of 10 or 12 people. In this technique, it is possible to see how the group’s opinions are formed during the meeting and to verify where commonalities and differences lie. Online focus groups work very well with all types of B2C research.
Quantitative exploratory research
The high efficiency of online surveys makes them increasingly used for quantitative exploratory research. Rather than discovering consumer thinking, they are used to validate or reject hypotheses established beforehand and to quantify some key aspects that require investigation. Online surveys are often used to determine market structure – what products are purchased, what brands, and how often – to draw consumer profiles – who buys, who uses – or to determine the most common reasons for choosing a product.
Benefits of exploratory research
Exploratory market research is a crucial phase in many research processes, but it’s important to know when and how to use it.
Its main benefit is that it allows the researcher to understand some basic realities in an early phase, which will help take the first steps with greater confidence and save resources by focusing on what is important to gain acceptance in the market.
Furthermore, exploratory research lays the groundwork for later investigations to detail and quantify any aspect.
As for its limitations, it is important to consider that this phase of research serves to point in the right direction. Since it is often based on qualitative information, it is advisable to carry out subsequent quantification and validation before finalizing strategies.
Exploratory research. How to get started?
Through We are Testers, you can conduct exploratory research with total flexibility.
The platform allows you to design and conduct both in-depth interviews and focus groups to gather qualitative information as needed. Using our online surveys, you can then validate all your hypotheses and quantify any aspects that have arisen during quantitative exploration.
And all of this can be done using the same platform and We are Testers’ support team. Nothing could be easier and faster for developing your exploratory research with confidence.
Don’t hesitate any longer, contact our team and better understand the market you want to expand into.Update date 22 December, 2023