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Market research has always been an essential task for any business. Traditionally this was a begrudged chore that drained time, money, and resources on purchasing or gathering information from lengthy interviews, focus groups, or vox-pops, for example.

In the digital world, however, the process has become much simpler and more cost-effective for companies of any size. By using social media tools, it’s easy to analyse industry trends, consumer expectations, and competitors, not to mention the public perception of your own brand and company performance.

You can also find out who your target market are, what they require, deliver it, and assess how you performed.

Simply searching through the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn reveals what the public are saying about any one subject in real-time. So, you can discover what consumers value and what they reject, whether it’s in the context of a product, service, or overall brand.

What’s more, when considering how fast trends change, traditional research methods can take many weeks or months to complete and would, therefore, be obsolete anyway – another reason why the real-time aspect of the digital world is so valuable.

Of course, you can even go further and engage with social media users directly – asking them for their views and feedback to discover their needs – with tools such as online surveys distributed through social channels or by email newsletter.

This type of networking acts as advertising in itself, as well as a way to improve customer service and even generate leads. Thus, seeking to improve your service can simultaneously boost your own brand profile.

Meanwhile, those companies that refuse to adapt to the new model struggle as they dedicate huge swathes of their research budget to outdated methods, only to receive relatively redundant information.

So while digital market research does take time, and can be an on-going effort, it does not compare to the resources that would be depleted by using only traditional methods.

Failing to embrace the shifting needs and expectations of customers can prove the death of a company, no matter how big. Writing in Forbes, Avi Dan used the demise of Kodak as a clear example. Their decline was brought about by neglecting to shift from analog film to digital, thus becoming irrelevant in the Instagram generation.

Despite having 140,000 employees and a market value $28 billion, Kodak could not counter the popularity of the likes of Instagram. Facebook saw the potential and the company with 13 employees sold for $1 billion. Ironically, had Kodak taken social media seriously (or used the means of online market research) it might have noticed the digital shift in the market.

Dan concluded that “As technology moves in warp speed and disrupt markets, companies need to be ready to transform their business models continually and instantly. The days of the stable, long-lasting business model are a thing of the past.”

Incidentally, the best way to be constantly aware of such shifts is by using digital market research methods. Then, with in-depth knowledge of the market at your disposal, your business can quickly adapt.

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