Industries that Use Research

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Industries that Use Research

Key Takeaways

  • Several industries that use research are retail, marketing, financial services, consumer packaged goods, and entertainment.
  • Retail has always been a research-driven industry thanks to its rapidly changing nature and availability of good-quality data.
  • Effective marketing tends to be based on competitive and customer research. It is also common for content marketers to publish content that is research-based.

Introduction

The report includes 25 industries that use research frequently and benefit from it, along with the types of research they use and the available information on which departments and business users utilize research.

Retail

  • According to a research paper published in the International Journal of Research in Marketing, retail has always been a research-driven industry due to its dynamic and diverse nature, along with relatively high availability of quality data.
  • Twentify believes that retail companies that conduct customer research are more likely to achieve growth with their existing footprint instead of opening new stores. Some brands that have managed to do it are Puma and Carrefour.
  • According to BrandWatch, qualitative research, especially observational customer research, is used especially often in retail. Changes in customer behaviors are observed based on season, pricing, day of the week, and similar.
  • Several more specific types of research used in retail include intercept surveys, mystery shopping, customer surveys (especially online ones), shop-alongs, competitive research, social listening/monitoring, user experience, and virtual ethnography.
  • Large retailers often have not only research and development departments, but also innovation labs, which, among other things, provide observational research data that serves as a basis for innovation and product development. Companies that have such units partially for the purpose of research include 7-Eleven and Walmart.
  • Other departments of retail companies that often base their decisions on research include marketing, corporate social responsibility, and human resources.
  • Examples of business users are retail managers, who increasingly make their decisions based on big and small data. For instance, an HR manager may make a staffing decision based on in-store research conducted by a third-party company. Also, investors in retail companies use research data to make decisions.

Manufacturing

  • Multiple sources state that the combination of qualitative and quantitative research is the most effective for manufacturing companies.
  • Specific types of research used in manufacturing include online customer feedback, new market analysis, customer segmentation, customer focus groups, competitive intelligence, best practices research, and market sizing.
  • Some of the departments that conduct and use research in manufacturing are product development, risk and compliance, strategy, operations, and marketing.
  • However, given the long list of use cases for research in manufacturing, which includes market opportunities, product launches, market entry, pricing, usability testing, pricing, and sales and purchasing, both departments and business users of research span across entire manufacturing companies.
  • For example, manufacturing content marketers name several research methods as their primary strategies for reaching target audiences. They are website analytics, keywords research, social media listening, secondary research, primary research, and customer conversations and panels.

Automotive

  • Research types that are used in the automotive industry include market surveys, lead generation surveys, mystery shopping, site selection studies, customer segmentation, industry forecasting, pricing analytics, brand evaluation, and product testing.
  • Departments that use research include sales, product development, customer experience, and marketing. However, specific business users are not available.

Marketing

  • Ascend2 believes that most marketing involves some research. For instance, a common marketing research use case is identifying qualities or behaviors of a target audience. It is used to develop strategy and to fuel decision-making.
  • For advertising, the strategy revolves around designing the most effective ads and campaigns, which requires a deep understanding of the target audience, and constant monitoring of the ad's or campaign's performance.
  • However, it should be noted that research-based content marketing may put research at the heart of its content strategy. In this way, content pieces are objective and well-informed.
  • For instance, Hinge Marketing found that the fastest-growing professional services companies were three times more likely to use research results in their content.
  • The marketing industry uses a variety of research types, including quantitative, qualitative, and ethnographic research.
  • Some of the specific methods are analysis of marketing performance, brand awareness and association research, demand estimation, A/B testing, and trendspotting.
  • Competitive analysis is another frequently used marketing research tool. It is used to assess a competitor's content, SEO structure, PR coverage, and social media presence and engagement.
  • While there is no direct information on which business departments in marketing agencies conduct and use research, based on the above information, it can be inferred that they include strategy, content marketing, social media, and analytics. Business users likely span from junior content creators to directors who make strategic decisions.

UX Design

  • User experience (UX) design is a discipline that is heavily based on research. Since its primary purpose is to design digital products and services that are as functional as possible, it is crucial to understand the target customer. Each UX project must be based on who the customer is, what motivates them, how the product will solve their problem, what they like and dislike, and similar. Therefore, it involves gathering insights on user behaviors.
  • Several UX research methods include interviews, field research, diary study, experience sampling, online surveys, usability testing, and A/B testing.
  • Research is usually conducted by UX research teams, who then present the results to UX or product design teams. However, in smaller companies, the roles and teams may be combined. Therefore, a UX or product designer / design team may be responsible for both conducting the research and using its results to inform the design.
  • Other business users may include UX research leads, UX directors, and any other members of UX or product research and design teams.

Beauty

  • The beauty industry requires research to determine skincare trends, consumer spending, target consumers, brand perception, new markets, consumer demand, and consumer preferences. It is often the first step before starting the development of a new product.
  • The second step often requires scientific research to come up with the right formulation.
  • Primary research methods for market research in the beauty industry include online surveys, interviews, focus groups, field research, user testing, and consumer research panels, while some of the secondary research sources are market research reports, trade shows, and beauty magazines.
  • McKinsey notes that research will only grow more important in the beauty industry as it recovers from the pandemic. According to its report, it is likely that beauty brands and retailers will collaborate closer and share customer data to better adjust their strategies.
  • Departments that conduct and use research in the beauty industry include product development, marketing, strategy, customer service, and sales. Business users are not specified.

Financial Services

  • Market and customer research have growing importance for financial institutions due to the rapid digitalization of the industry. Traditional financial institutions need to conduct research to determine which fintech solutions will fit their customers' needs instead of adopting them ad-hoc.
  • Research methods used by banks include competitive research, focus groups, mystery shopping, new account opening surveys, closed account surveys, and UX research.
  • Pricing research is named as especially important for financial advisors because it drives profit and customer engagement.
  • An example of a team within a financial services company that uses research is content marketing, including both strategy and marketer positions.
  • While the above data suggests that research insights are used by customer experience, strategy, tech, and product development teams, there is no direct information that confirms it.

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)

  • Several types of research used by CPG companies include prototype and package testing, market assessments, brand health tracking, brand name testing, shopping research, and advertising effectiveness research.
  • According to multiple agencies, the fast-changing CPG landscape means that research should be embedded at every level, from product design to marketing.
  • It can also assist with compliance, managing retail channels, and fostering brand interactions.
  • While specific departments that use research are not available, it can be assumed that they include product development, marketing, sales, and compliance.

Higher Education

  • Research is vital for higher education institutions because it allows them to adjust their educational offer to the current job market.
  • Three useful types of research when designing a new program are competitive analysis with degree competition data, labor market research, and employer and job posting research. Student surveys are another type of research that may help uncover needs and increase engagement.
  • Selected business users are staff and faculty members who are responsible for pitching new program ideas.
  • Research is also used by marketing teams to discover differentiators in the higher education landscape.

Tourism Operators

  • Types of research used by tourism operators include both secondary research methods (market trends, market sizing, visitor volumes, market segmentation, competitive research) and primary research methods (visitor surveys, online monitoring).
  • Research is used by operations, marketing, and product or service development teams. Especially in terms of planning and development, it is widespread across both private and public sector providers. Outside of marketers, business users within these departments are not specified.

Government

  • Government agencies use research "to understand social trends, monitor economic indicators, evaluate public policy programs, and create targeted communications that reach particular demographic groups."
  • Types of research used by them include marketing effectiveness research, audience segmentation, population profiles, tax and regulatory analysis, and user (UX) research.
  • While specific departments are not available, the above information suggests that they include public relations or communications, marketing, and technology. Similarly, based on the above, examples of business users may be spokespeople and software engineers.

Tech (with a Focus on Startups)

  • Technology startups need market research to determine feasibility and get to know their competition and target customers.
  • While they often have limited resources, research methods that are used by them include online community research, customer interviews, online surveys, and secondary research through publicly available sources.
  • The primary business user is the founder.

Hospitality and Hotel

  • Types of research used in the hospitality industry include guest satisfaction surveys, website user experience research, feasibility studies for new locations, customer sentiment analysis, visitor profiles, and economic impact analysis.
  • Departments that use research include operations, marketing, and customer experience. Specific business users are not available.

Entertainment

  • The entertainment industry uses quantitative and qualitative research methods, such as consumer segmentation, content testing, influencer research, pricing analytics, and focus groups.
  • Focus groups are especially common for the industry. They help determine which content should be aired on television or shown in movie theaters. They also assist in choosing the most effective trailers and posters.
  • Examples of the departments that conduct or use research are marketing and finance. Business users include financial analysts, marketers, artists, and studio executives.

Fashion

  • Research methods used in the fashion industry include online surveys, customer interviews, field research, consumer research panels, and secondary research (with a focus on trends research).
  • The most important role of research in fashion is to stay up-to-date with changing trends.
  • Therefore, while specific roles and departments (other than fashion entrepreneurs) are not provided, it can be assumed that design and strategy departments use research results.
  • Additional departments that may be involved are product development, customer experience, and marketing.

Nonprofits

  • Research methods used by nonprofits include surveys, intercept interviews, focus groups, in-depth interviews, and participant observation.
  • They are primarily used to increase donor engagement and improve operational inefficiencies.
  • There is no information about which departments or business users are involved, though it can be assumed that functions related to fundraising, planning, operations, marketing, and community affairs all benefit from research.

Restaurants

  • Research methods used by restaurants include competitive analysis, focus groups, interviews, archival research, polls, surveys, and testing.
  • Research is conducted to understand trends, gain a competitive advantage, improve customer experience, and optimize the menu.
  • Business users include restaurant owners. Departments or teams within restaurants are not provided, though it can be assumed (based on the information above) that they include customer-facing roles that benefit from insights, kitchen staff who benefits from menu suggestions, and similar.

Utilities and Energy

  • Research methods used by utility and energy sectors include customer research and segmentation, product and strategic marketing assessment, market trends research, and brand loyalty research.
  • The sector also uses research to assess the sentiment toward green energy, compared against the need for affordability.
  • Research is used by operations and marketing. Business users include key decision-makers within the company.

Healthcare

  • Research methods used in the healthcare industry include market position studies, consumer research (including need and demand), brand awareness and association, site-selection assessment, patient and staff satisfaction surveys and panels, and advertising tracking.
  • While specific departments and business users are not disclosed, based on the fact that research often focuses on staff and patient satisfaction, as well as providing data to inform marketing strategies, human resources, marketing, and operations are likely departments that use research the most.

Telecommunications

  • Research methods used in the telecommunications industry include customer segmentation, customer journey mapping, concept and communication tests, usability tests, pricing tests, brand health studies, technology penetration, studies on media consumption habits, and competitive analysis.
  • While there is no information on departments and business users, based on the above, it can be assumed that research is used by software engineers, product designers, as well as finance, sales, and marketing departments.

Real Estate

  • Research methods used by real estate companies include competitive analysis, neighborhood analysis, demographic research, and local market trends research. Their primary goal is to understand the potential of doing business in a specific location.
  • There are many players who use real estate research. They include agents, investors in retail properties, developers, and private buyers.

B2B Technology

  • Research methods include specialized surveys for business target groups, product and market forecasting, business customer segmentation, and pricing research.
  • It is worth noting that business partners tend to prefer evidence-based content, which is why research is also used to prepare marketing content.
  • While departments and business users are not available, the above suggests that product development, finance, and marketing are some of the departments that use research.

Toys

  • As with fashion, trends in the toys industry change rapidly, with some reports stating that consumer demand for more refined products is on the rise.
  • Therefore, research is focused on identifying these trends and arising business opportunities with trend and customer research, as well as methods such as market and product forecasting.
  • While the department or business users are not specified, it can be assumed (based on the above information) that product development teams and designers benefit from research the most.

Legal

  • While it is noted that market research has been underutilized by law practices, lawyers still conduct various types of research, including legal databases, newspaper archives, witness interviews, and social media research.
  • Also, research companies and law firms are starting to realize that law practices need market research to assess competition, stay up-to-date with changing laws and regulations, and champion innovation.
  • Some methods that are used for market research for the legal market include mock trials, community surveys, and follow-up phone interviews.
  • As of now, lawyers and paralegals are the primary business users of research.

Accounting

  • Accounting firms need to conduct research to stay up-to-date with changing regulations, tech innovations, and the growing complexity of business transactions.
  • The three main research methods used in accounting are experimental, analytical, and archival.
  • Research is especially important for public accounting firms, though it is also conducted by accountants in education, industry, and government, accounting, auditing, and tax research.
  • For reference, though the source is quite dated, a 2016 study by Accounting Web found that professional services firms that conduct market research grow faster and are more profitable than those that don't. It says that the most effective research methods for accounting firms are secondary research, surveys, focus groups, face-to-face interviews, and telephone interviews.

Research Strategy

We gathered the information from research papers, reports by research organizations, research agencies' websites, and media articles. For most industries, while it is easy to find information on use cases and research types typical for them, more comprehensive analysis on their approach to research is limited. While the data availability on departments and business users was sufficient for selected industries, for most of them, it was low. Therefore, when possible, we made assumptions based on the types of research typical for these industries. For example, if the common types of research included brand health monitoring, we included marketing as one of the departments. Still, there are some missing data points, especially related to business users, as there was not enough information to assume.


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