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Published September 28th 2016

Getting to Know You: A Complete Guide to Customer Research

Customer research guides your business decisions by providing insight into your customers. We run through a list of quick and cheap techniques.

The amount of data freely available online means there are multiple ways you can conduct online customer research.

Using these methods can give you an ongoing, affordable understanding of your customers. With this knowledge you can better meet their needs, stay ahead of trends and improve your marketing.

What is customer research?

Customer research utilizes any available method that can give you insight into your customers.

Customer research can guide your business decisions by providing insight into your customers and what they are talking about. By extension, this will give you insight into the market and your competitors, as well as your products and marketing.


Getting to know you…

Undertaking customer research allows you to understand the needs, wants, and frustrations of your consumer base, and then to provide solutions for them. The knowledge will help with your marketing too, emphasizing the benefits you can provide.

Doing this research online allows you to undertake it quicker, cheaper, and more frequently. You should talk to your customers as well, so focus groups or interviews are great if possible. For some, the expense makes this prohibitive. It is also a technique that cannot be utilized on an ongoing basis, whereas online research can keep you up to date with the latest changes and trends.

Customer research methods


Review sites have blossomed in recent years. From specific sites like Rotten Tomatoes, TripAdvisor and Glassdoor to the product reviews on eBay, Amazon and TrustPilot, there is no shortage of online reviews. Reading customer reviews can highlight common problems or wishes for a product and common frustrations.

Review sites like TrustPilot can surface customer insights

Q&A sites

Quora, Yahoo Answers, AskMetaFilter are all sites that contain questions and crowdsourced answers on a really wide array of topics, including discussions about brands. These sites can give you an idea of the questions and concerns that people have in relation to your brand, service or product.

Keyword research

Conducting online keyword research is the foundation of SEO, but it also tells you what consumers are interested in and the relative level of interest. It also helps to reveal the language consumers are using when they talk about these topics.

Google Analytics

Analytics can tell you more than the amount of traffic you are receiving. The Audience tab shows geography, interests, and a range of demographics. You can also discover which sites are referring the most traffic, helping you to discover which sites are most commonly used by your customers.

Google Analytics offers customer research insights


Online surveys can be easily set up with sites like Survey Monkey. This allows you to ask specific questions, although you need to take response bias into account.

Competitor analysis

Looking at your competitors’ websites and social media accounts can provide useful information about consumers that are shopping in your vertical but have chosen not to buy from your brand. There are several competitor analysis tools that can help with this

Blog comments

Does your blog have comments enabled? If so, reading through any comments is a good way of discovering questions your audience might have.

Twitter Insiders

Twitter recently launched an interesting product for marketers called Insiders. It is a 12,000 strong focus group of US & UK Twitter users that can be asked to perform a range of activities over a four to six week period. It is also possible to pick specific segments.

Twitter insiders is a new method for customer research

Google Trends and Consumer Barometer

Google Trends can help you to understand if a topic is becoming more or less popular. The Consumer Barometer allows you to build interactive charts with various filters applied, although the questions are limited to consumer online behavior.

Free data sources

Government data is available which is free and can help you understand a group, and several other sources can also be accessed for free.


Discover the most popular content people are sharing around a particular topic. This is useful for understanding what connects with your audience.

BuzzSumo helps you understand what your customers are sharing

Social media

Similarly, comments on your social media profile or posts can be a good source of information.

To really make the most of social media, and turn millions of organic conversations into a giant focus group, a social listening tool is necessary. Choosing a good tool means you can undertake in-depth social media research, understanding your audience and the groups within it.

The level of detail, and ability to segment the audience multiple ways, means consumer insights can be surfaced to drive business decisions.

Implementing customer research

The point is to get to know your customers.

While all customers are different, you should be able to group some together to create audience segments. Using this research, and more besides, you can go on to create detailed, accurate buyer personas that reflect these different market segments. These segments can be targeted, both in new product development and marketing.

One of the advantages of using online sources is the ability to keep pace with changing consumer trends. Regularly checking these sources allows you to keep ahead of your competitors and stay relevant to your consumers.

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