General enquiries :
+44 (0)20 7602 6000

Primary research methods

Thursday 11 July 2019

Hannah Smith's picture
By Hannah Smith

We live in an increasingly complex world of data and research, with an extensive number of ways an organisation can collect its own primary research. Constant development and innovation in the ways this research can be obtained has however in some senses, made choosing the most appropriate method more challenging. There is an important question that persists: which method is appropriate to use to attain the optimum result and gather the most informative findings?

In this blog we have set out to review the most widely used research methods, understanding the benefits of each dependent on what the objective is, in order to make answering this fundamental question a little easier.

Online surveys

Accessing an online panel is a valuable method of collecting data about customers, particularly those that are not necessarily existing stakeholders or customers for the specific entity the data is being collected on behalf of. This method also works well if the information required is on a yet larger scale. For instance, an online survey would be an ideal method for capturing how satisfied workers across London are with their location of work, in terms of accessibility, available services and catering options, as well as the environment. Online surveys are most useful to target a specific geography, as well as understanding why a certain group are not currently engaged in whichever topic is being explored.

Exit/intercept surveys

Exit surveys are valuable when tracking behavioural data, providing accurate detailed information in the here and now. Exit surveys are particularly effective when conducted repeatedly, as they allow for a like-for-like comparison of a snapshot in time, to provide detailed insight into behaviour. An example of how this data can be utilised, is a landlord trying to understand how customers are engaging with the retail and catering offer on a street in London, to ensure the offer is optimal and meeting their needs. Tracking how much shoppers spend, how frequently they visit, and where they have arrived from can provide broader information on what the demographic profile of the shoppers on the street is, and how strong of a pull that particular destination has. Consider the differences that would emerge between Bond Street for example, in terms of how much tourism and affluence it draws, compared to the likes of a smaller high street in Zone 3, which acts as a suburban hub. The needs of the customers in these two locations differs significantly. Knowing simply the numbers of people passing by a street or visiting a shopping centre is irrelevant unless you understand who they are and how they are engaging with their surroundings.

Knowing simply the numbers of people passing by a street or visiting a shopping centre is irrelevant unless you understand who they are and how they are engaging with their surroundings

Focus groups

Focus groups yield a heavy supply of qualitative data, derived from lengthy conversations with participants that are in some way stakeholders to the subject matter being discussed. This method works best when the information needed is regarding a specific topic, and a detailed understanding of sentiment is required. For example, if the subject matter is a particular shopping centre, these discussions may take place between customers or retailers present at the centre, and they may cover topics such as how consumers feel their local shopping centre contributes to the sense of community in the local area. This information would be difficult to obtain using quantitative methods or a statistical approach, as it would run the risk of losing valuable anecdotal information, which helps to provide a deeper understanding of opinions particular issues.

The value of using primary research for decision making is optimised when combining various approaches and datasets to create a clearer picture

To summarise, this article has highlighted that there are a number of options out there when collecting research; it is not a one size fits all approach. Whilst I’ve focused on three forms of primary research, there are many more available to utilise. The value of using primary research for decision making is optimised when combining various approaches and datasets to create a clearer picture. At CACI we specialise in stitching together datasets to provide an insight that is greater than the sum of the parts.

If you would like support in how you can make better decisions regarding customer insight, speak to one of our experts.

We live in an increasingly complex world of data and research, with an extensive number of ways an organisation can collect its own primary research. Constant development and innovation in the ways this research can be obtained has however in some senses, made choosing the most appropriate method more challenging. There is an important question that persists: which method is appropriate to use to attain the optimum result and gather the most informative findings?

Primary research methods