Research Methods Qualitative Research

The Power of Industry Reports to Jumpstart Product Research Projects

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Stephanie Douglass

Sr. Director, Marketing and Operations

Researchers are tasked with getting insights to answer business questions, inform a brand positioning, and often identify the next big opportunity for product development. When it comes to innovation and product development, stakeholders are constantly looking for “the next big thing” or a “disrupter.” The problem with trying to get at white space with straight qualitative research is that you are developing a framework of conversation based on what is. New ideas come from looking outside of what is and determining what can be. This is where Industry and Consumer Reports can help broaden the universe that is being explored and unveil the white space. In order to effectively evaluate secondary research with an open mind, it’s important to keep the following in mind:


1. Look outside your category.

There are many researchers that subscribe to daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual newsletters that report the latest information for a specific industry. These are great resources for your secondary research. They set up what is and ground your brand and products in the current universe. Equally critical to effective secondary research is identifying category adjacent brands and products and understanding how they impact consumers. This will help to ensure you aren’t missing a big innovation that might break into your market share or a great opportunity that will build your market share.


2. Zoom out on your target.

Brands know their customers. They know why they like them and what might drive them to competitors. But how much do brands know about their target that is not related to the product or brand they are purchasing? One way to “zoom-out” is by looking at how your target shows up online. What are they doing, saying, sharing on social media? Are they writing ratings and reviews that can give the insight to need states? What challenges do they have that you can address whether it be emotional or rational? Product research starts with identifying needs and uncovering these in the real world lead to much more dynamic product development sessions.


3. Identify the cultural context that may be impacting trends.

Another important component of secondary research in leading into product development is to ensure findings are grounded in what’s going on in the world. Are the trends temporary or long-term? What is the driving force behind the trend? For example, many trends related to stay-at-home and COVID-19 may be temporary in nature, and developing a product around trends directly resulting from this temporary state of being may or may not be a great idea.


Secondary research is an inexpensive methodology to do some groundwork around your category and the opportunities that are out there. Great secondary research will identify hypotheses to test further in qualitative research studies. Ultimately, that is the goal of starting with industry and consumer reports; to inform the next phase of the primary research.

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