Our surveys come with superpowers ⚡

Blog Best Of

Customer Research 101: Definition, Types, and Methods


12 February 2024

7 min read

Do you want to improve your marketing or product? Then, customer research can help.

Your customer is at the heart of all your business decisions. In fact, everything revolves around a customer. A business is about having a paying customer, and it wouldn’t exist without one.

The effectiveness of your product or marketing depends on how well you know your customers. When you know your customers better, you can make better product or marketing decisions.

In this article, we break down:

What is Customer Research?

Customer research (or consumer research) is a set of techniques used to identify the needs, preferences, behaviors, and motivations of your current or potential customers.

Simply put, the consumer research process is a way for businesses to collect information and learn from their customers so they can serve them better.

Businesses typically conduct customer research to uncover new insights on their customers. They then use these newly uncovered insights to improve their product, craft an effective marketing strategy, and more.

Here are 2 key questions customer research helps you answer:

  • Who are my ideal customers? Who is the best fit (or worst fit) for our product?
  • What channels can I use to find and communicate with my ideal customers?

Online survey tools like SurveySparrow can help you answer these questions. With omnichannel survey distribution, snazzy data visualization, and 1,500+ integrations with your favorite tools, SurveySparrow simplifies customer research for your GTM and product teams.



Why is Customer Research Important?

A. How well do you know your customers? Not knowing enough about your customers can cost you time and money.

For example, a recent survey revealed that 46% of customers broke up with a brand because they received irrelevant content pushes.

Successful marketers realize that research is necessary to understand and cater to the ever-changing needs of today’s customers. According to a study by Coschedule:

  • Successful marketers are 242% more likely to conduct audience research at least once every quarter.
  • 56% of the study’s most elite marketers research at least once a month.

B. You shouldn’t make assumptions about your customers’ preferences or needs. You have to go out there and get opinions from real customers.

C. You need to go beyond your general idea about your customers. The more you understand your customers, the better you’ll be able to serve them with your product or service.

customer research quote

D. If you want to make your product the best in the market, you need to identify any unmet needs and learn how well your product serves the needs of your current customers.

E. Customer research helps you learn more about your customers, both the potential and existing ones. Serving your customers better than the alternatives starts with understanding them better and more deeply.

F. Here are other key reasons why you should research customers:

  • Know the Why: Your analytics dashboard merely tells you what your customers do. Only research can help you understand why they do that.
  • Validate Assumptions and Best Practices: In most cases, guesswork leads to terrible decisions. Your customers might not need what you think they need. And what works for most businesses might not work for you. The only real way to know is to talk to your customers.

Types of Customer Research

Customer research can be done in two distinct ways: primary and secondary.

Primary research

Primary research is research you conduct yourself. In other words, in primary research, you collect the data yourself. Some examples of primary research are face-to-face interviews, surveys, and social media interactions.

Secondary research

Secondary research (or desk research) is done by someone else. In secondary research, you make use of data that’s been collected by other people. A few examples of secondary research are forums or communities, industry reports, and online databases.

Primary and secondary research can be further broken down into two kinds of data: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative data

Qualitative data is descriptive and conceptual. And the nature of the data makes it subjective and interpretive. Examples of qualitative data include descriptions of certain attributes, such as blue eyes or chocolate-flavored ice cream.

Quantitative data

Quantitative data can be expressed using numbers, which means it can be counted or measured. As opposed to qualitative data, it’s objective and conclusive. Examples of quantitative data include numerical values such as measurements, length, cost, or weight.

Customer Research Methods that Work in 2024 (and Beyond)

Now that you know what customer research is and why it’s important, read on to learn the different consumer research methods you can use to make the most of it.


In a survey, you ask a series of questions to your customers regarding a subject or concept.

You can conduct a survey in person, over the phone, through emails, or online forms.

Here are some advantages of conducting customer research through surveys:

  • Quickly collect a ton of insightful data without the high costs.
  • The data you collect using surveys is simple to analyze.
  • You can ask various questions since you get a wide range of question formats.

When it comes to surveys, it’s all about how you ask. Clear and concise questions can help you get reliable information.

An online survey tool is your best bet for quickly gathering customer information. All you need to do is create a survey with a ready-to-use template and send your customers a link to take it.

If you’re in need of a cost-free and easy-to-use solution for conducting customer research surveys and beyond, consider exploring SurveySparrow. This tool aids in gathering essential data by enabling you to conduct thorough data analysis via its user-friendly and conversational survey format.

Check Out SurveySparrow for Free here! 


In an interview, you speak directly to your customers and ask them open-ended questions.

  • Interviews allow you to have deep, one-on-one conversations with your customers and explore a topic in-depth.
  • You can go into the details, obtain data beyond surface-level information, and gather deeper insights.

While interviews allow you to probe deeper into a subject, success depends on the expertise and skills of the researcher (or interviewer) conducting the interviews.

Conducting interviews isn’t easy. It’s time-consuming and costly. However, the information you collect can be invaluable for your company’s growth.

You can meet your customers in person to conduct your interviews. Or you can use video conferencing tools such as Google Meet or Zoom to converse with your customers online.


Your analytics dashboard lets you in on your customers’ actions within your product.

Just a glance at it and you’ll know what your customers do and how they engage with your product.

The irony is that customers don’t know what they want or why. They might think they need something but that might not be the case.

What they say they need doesn’t equate to what they do.

The point is that customer-reported behavior is different from actual behavior. That’s why it pays to track and observe your customers’ behavior.

You can use heatmaps, click tracking, scroll mapping, and user-recorded sessions to gain insights into your users’ actions and behavior.

Focus Groups

In this method, you combine a small group based on certain criteria such as demographic, firmographic, or behavioral attributes.

And you ask this group about whatever topic or concept. It could be about your product, marketing message, or something else that’s related to your customers or business.

The idea is to get them to talk to each other and have meaningful conversations.

A moderator helps facilitate the conversations between the individuals in this group. The moderator will try to draw meaningful insights from these conversations and discussions.

You mainly use this technique to understand a certain topic or subject better.

Competitive Analysis

Studying your competitors’ strategies and tactics is a great way to learn more about the target market and the existing solutions.

You can analyze both your direct and indirect competitors depending on the needs you address and the customers you cater to.

You can conduct a competitive analysis from a marketing or product perspective.

If you conduct your analysis from a marketing perspective, you study your competition’s SEO strategy, landing page copy, blog content, PR coverage, social media presence, etc.

You can also conduct your competitive analysis from a product perspective and analyze your competitors’ user experience, features, pricing structure, etc.

Review Mining

The reviews of you and your competitors are another great way to get inside your customer’s head. This method can be especially valuable if you are a SAAS company.

It helps you better understand your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your own. This understanding helps you improve your own products and better address the needs of your ideal customers.

This kind of data is easy to acquire as it’s publicly available, and you can get them on:

  • Review sites such as G2Crowd and Capterra.
  • Forums and niche communities such as ProductHunt, Reddit, Quora, etc.

Why SurveySparrow is the Best Customer Research Tool

customer research tool: SurveySparrow

SurveySparrow facilitates comprehensive customer research by enabling businesses to efficiently collect, analyze, and act on customer feedback, leading to better informed and customer-centric decisions.

  1. Collect Feedback Easily: Create simple surveys to find out what customers think about your products or services.
  2. Understand Satisfaction: Use surveys to figure out how happy customers are with what you offer.
  3. Learn Buying Habits: Find out why customers buy certain products, which helps in planning what to sell.
  4. Get Product Opinions: Ask customers what they like or don’t like about your products to make improvements.
  5. See How People View Your Brand: Understand how customers see your brand, which is important for your marketing.
  6. Keep Up with Trends: Regular surveys help you stay updated on what your customers want or need.
  7. Group Customers: Identify different types of customers to target them more effectively with your marketing.
  8. Improve Customer Experience: Learn where you can make the buying process better for your customers.
  9. Test New Ideas: Before launching new products, check if your customers would be interested.
  10. Check Customer Loyalty: Find out if customers would keep using your products or recommend them to others.

Sign up for a free trial.


Final thoughts

Businesses that deeply understand their customers have a huge advantage over the ones that don’t. Period.

Whatever you’re looking to learn or achieve, it becomes a lot clearer with a little research.

When done right, customer research can be your competitive advantage.

Be sure to pick a method that’s right for your situation. What are you looking to learn and achieve? Think through each research method carefully and pick the one that works best for you.

Have you conducted customer research? What did you learn? And how did it go? Tell us about that in the comment section below.

And if you’re looking to conduct customer research through surveys, feel free to check out SurveySparrow.


I'm a developer turned marketer, working as a Product Marketer at SurveySparrow — A survey tool that lets anyone create beautiful, conversational surveys people love to answer.


Cherry-picked blog posts.
The best of the best.

Leave us your email, we wont spam. Promise!

Start your free trial today

No Credit Card Required. 14-Day Free Trial

Try For Free

Request a Demo

Want to learn more about SurveySparrow? We'll be in touch soon!

Request Demo