This blog is the final in a 5 part series of articles reviewing different types of market research and how best to use them to inform your business strategy; the first explained customer satisfaction surveys, the second customer perception studies, the third market feedback and evaluation, with the most recent covering mystery shopper research.

This final blog in the series reviews the different channels available for conducting research, together with the advantages and disadvantages of these. Market research can be executed using different channels, you can gather answers to your questions through online surveys, telephone, face to face, as part of a focus group or indeed a combination of these. So what are the merits of these channels and how best are they utilised?

Desk Research:

Often you can source information about the market place from reports available in the public domain. These can include industry forecasts, government reports, briefings, magazine articles and papers presented at conferences. This is a good, cost effective, starting point for a research project. However it does require an expertise to know where to look and to then interpret the reports and identify key information.

Online research:

This is certainly a cost effective way of conducting research, with minimal cost to set up a survey, although often an incentive to participate is required. It is simple to set up an account with one of the online providers, the participant undertakes data entry and there is less admin to complete.

Online surveys are easy to promote across social media, email campaigns and indeed as pop-ups on websites. The disadvantages are persuading people to participate and to complete the survey in full. This in part can be tackled with the incentive of a prize draw, or the reward of free information in the form an ebook. Participation is more likely if the respondent knows and respects the organisation conducting the survey or cares about the results.

It is also important to bear in mind that on-line survey participants are limited to those who are “internet savvy” and care must be taken not to let this bias the results. For example when conducting the Construction Media Index Competitive Advantage choose not to use this method, as it would be likely to show a much higher usage of social media than a representative sample would show.

Other disadvantages are that you cannot control the number or mix of participants making it much harder to work to a quota.

Telephone research:

Competitive Advantage has found telephone interviews to be the most cost effective and reliable method of research in the construction sector.

The two way conversation allows for clarity and the flow of questions can be directed according to the answers given. This human element allows for greater detail in the responses, especially in the case of open questions. Telephone research needn’t be conducted in one go, the answers can be collected over a series of calls. You can choose who to include in your calling list, meaning a more targeted approach.

The challenges are that telephone research does require a researcher with good questioning skills, one who is able to get past the ‘gatekeeper’ to speak to the right respondent. Our experience is that telephone research skills are also very different from telesales skills.

Time can also be an issue with this research, especially if you have a tight deadline.

Face to face research:

If there are some complex issues or important customers consider face-to-face interviews in the research process.

Obviously the challenge is scheduling the time for an interview with the chosen respondent and where. Meetings usually take place at the respondent’s office and sometimes involve more than one person. This is also an expensive option.

Another way to achieve this is by hosting a focus group.

Focus Groups:

The purpose of the focus group is to bring together people who have similar experiences to discuss an issue. By holding a group discussion each participant should contribute to the conversation, supporting opinions or adding a different perspective on an issue. It is an ideal environment to test opinions or discuss new ideas. These may have been the findings from a telephone survey and the focus group can be used to gain a better understanding of some of the issues behind the responses. Alternatively it can be used to test concepts before conducting a telephone or online survey.

Focus groups are particularly valuable when researching attitudes to a new product or testing attitudes to product literature. It works in a far less structured manner than a standard interview, with a facilitator guiding the discussion allowing one participant’s opinions to spark thoughts from others.


Market research is an important part of business and when used effectively can inform business decisions which contribute to the success of your company. In summary market research can help you:

  • Improve customer retention and maintain standards
  • Improve business processes and efficiency
  • Minimise the risk of product launches
  • Identify staff training requirements
  • Benchmark against your competitors
  • Major on your brand’s strengths and correct its weaknesses

Contact us:

Competitive Advantage has been conducting construction market research since 2000. Our research team have construction industry experience, are familiar with the industry’s language and practices and understand the challenges you and your customers face.

Our commercial experience means that as well as reporting market research findings we are able to interpret these effectively and make sound business recommendations.

We aim to provide high quality information at an economic cost.

View our case studies page to learn more about the work we have completed, or feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements.

Related blog articles:

How to write a comprehensive market research brief


Market Research that informs your business strategy. Part 1: customer satisfaction surveys

Market Research that informs your business strategy. Part 2: perception studies

Market Research that informs your business strategy. Part 3: market feedback and evaluation

Market Research that informs your business strategy. Part 4: Mystery Shopper

Making sense of the construction industry – a marketer’s guide

Our latest reports:

Construction Media Index

Adoption of BIM

Designing with Sustainable Products

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