Making the decision to become a market researcher can open up a host of opportunities. The work can be exciting, demanding and fulfilling, but there are many different areas of market research, so it will help to know a little about the various possibilities before taking the plunge.
What is Market Research?
The term 'market research' is used to describe the process of finding out what people think about a company's products or services. Organisations may use market research to gather opinions, to test new ideas or to find out about a particular target market and their habits. They may also use market research to help understand why something is unsuccessful, or ask researchers to undertake product testing. Mystery shoppers may be used to test out services or check how a product is sold.
Effective market research can help businesses target their sales or services, so they can save money and operate successfully. It can also be helpful before starting a business to check out the prospective market, discover a target audience, or to test prototypes of a new product.
How is Market Research Conducted?
Market research can be done in many ways. Market researchers may use the phone, or conduct face to face research e.g. interviewing people on the street, or by asking them to join an opinion panel or focus group. In recent years, conducting market research online has become popular. There are plenty of sites where you can sign up to complete surveys and receive rewards including cash payments or points which can be converted to vouchers or cash.
Market research can be done directly, but many businesses prefer to use a professional market research company to carry out their investigations, so if you choose to work in this area of market research, you may find yourself conducting telephone surveys, or perhaps running a focus group. Specialist market research companies often have their own staff, working from a call centre or in-house, or they may pay freelancers to conduct the research from their own home. Home working is sometimes a good option, as you can take advantage of flexible working arrangements.
What Does a Market Researcher do?
Market research work can be varied, or you can choose to specialise in one area. You may choose to give your own opinions, or you may conduct market research for companies by getting other people's opinions.
Market research could include:
- Answering surveys online
- Product testing
- Contacting clients by phone (businesses or private individuals)
- Carrying out mystery shopping
- Working outdoors conducting street surveys or door to door interviews
- Leading focus groups or discussion panels
Recording and analysing results may also be an important part of the job. This could include data entry, analysing relevant information you have discovered through your research and sometimes producing a written report.
What Skills and Attributes Do I Need?
Working as a market researcher requires many skills and attributes. In most instances, the following are important:
Self discipline - This is especially important if you are working as freelancer. No one will be there to make sure you carry out your tasks, but you will be expected to stick to deadlines.
Well organised - Market research is all about data, so you need to be meticulous in recording findings and collating information. Incorrect information will lead to inaccurate results.
Outgoing personality - Unless you are working completely on your own (e.g. filling out surveys or product testing from home) you must be able to make people feel relaxed and willing to share their views with you. Indeed, this can also apply online if, for instance, you are asked to take part in a forum where a particular product or range of products are discussed in depth (often with other members).
Good verbal communicator - You may be working from a script, or you may be able to put things in your own words, but you must be able to communicate clearly and explain things well. A good telephone manner could be important e.g. not speaking too quickly or hesitantly.
Good written communicator - Accurate recording and reporting is essential. You may be required to produce written reports about your research. You should therefore be able to summarise your findings and state your opinion clearly, based on the evidence, without letting your own views sway your conclusions.
How Much Could I Earn?
Naturally, the amount you can earn as a market researcher depends very much on the kind of tasks you take on. Tasks such as completing surveys yourself or carrying out simple product testing pay a relatively small amount for each task completed. For example, online survey sites generally pay between R30 -R100, depending on the survey length, or an equivalent amount in points which can be converted once you reach a certain threshold.
Similarly with product testing. Trying a product out and providing feedback will involve items being sent to you which you are normally able to keep, but there is little chance of you being paid much more than what you would expect for an average survey. Indeed, product tests are often combined with online surveys and therefore rewarded accordingly.
Longer tasks, such as data entry jobs, may pay more, but you are still only likely to be paid a relatively low sum, at a flat rate per hour. You may find you have to work very quickly in order to make a reasonable amount.
If you work as a market researcher for an external company (e.g. conducting street surveys, telephone work etc), you will be paid an hourly rate. This rate varies depending on a number of factors including your experience. As a rough guide, you are likely to earn around R200 per hour with 1-4 years experience, and a researcher with over 9 years experience may earn as much as R560. However, it's important to remember that if you are a freelancer, you may have additional expenses such as your phone bill, internet connection and income tax.
A Career Worth Pursuing?
There is no doubt that a career in market research can be extremely interesting and rewarding, and the variety and flexibility is very appealing to many people. So find out as much as possible about the alternatives open to you, and you could soon be setting out on a whole new chapter of your working life.