Earlier this year, an article written by Toby Clark, Director of Research EMEA at Mintel, on the benefits of market research, was featured in the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)’s Catalyst magazine.

In the first part of this article, Toby discusses the path that companies follow when investing in market research and the opportunities that can be uncovered along the way.

Marketing, of course, has to adapt to new technology and changing consumer behaviour. Market research can help it do that, whatever the company’s size. At Mintel, market research covers consumer research, product innovation, competitive analysis and market analysis. Marketers use it for so many different reasons and contexts. It helps you see the bigger picture – and this is something that is always of value, whatever the latest trends.

For example, marketers might use it in benchmarking – to see how their product is performing compared with the rest of the market. Or there are market entry studies – a scoping exercise early in the process that assesses an investment opportunity by finding out what the market is worth, who the big rival will be, and where the gaps in the market are. If your sales are rising, it can tell you whether it’s because the market as a whole is doing well and you’re simply floating with the tide, or for another reason. It helps you avoid complacency. Or, if your sales are falling, you can use it for competitor analysis to discover what you might be doing wrong.

You can also use it for inspiration. Our Global New Products Database (GNPD) tracks innovation around the world. It can tell us that Korea, for example, is hugely innovative in the beauty market. Could a beauty and personal care (BPC) company in the UK translate anything from there for their own market? It can also help marketers learn from different markets. Take the clean eating trend – it has had a big impact on the food market, where there has been an increased emphasis on the clear and simple labelling of ingredients. Could beauty manufacturers also look at this for their products?

Get a reality check

Market research is also a way to get a reality check. When you’re a marketer in a particular industry, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own product and lose the consumer perspective. It’s easy to forget that not everyone cares about washing powder, or current accounts, or household paper products, as much as you do. When I talk to clients, the fact that they know everything about their products can become a barrier, because their view is very industry-focused.

I’ve worked a lot with banks, and they would often be surprised at the lack of consumer engagement in financial services. They would know everything about their own products and interest rates, for example, and those of their rivals, but not that – for consumers – rates are neither here nor there. Some market research can point out that a good proportion of the population doesn’t even have £500 in savings, so a quarter of a per cent on an interest rate makes no difference at all to them. Research can give you this broader perspective and remind you that the things that matter to you don’t necessarily matter to your customers. Market research is a way to challenge your preconceptions. If you’re a small company, it also helps to open up the world.

This article originally featured in Catalyst, CIM’s quarterly magazine.

Toby Clark is the Director of Research EMEA at Mintel , where he has worked for over 10 years. Toby leads a large team of researchers who produce over 500 consumer reports annually on UK and European market sectors. Prior to this, Toby was Head of UK Financial Services research at Mintel.

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