How to Conduct Customer Research for Your Startup

Rohan Mathew

Updated on:

The birth of startups typically arises from the inception of a great idea for a product or service that’s likely to capture the attention, hearts, minds, and of course, the interest of customers everywhere.

The decision to start a business is a perfect one to make, provided you have the means to bring it to fruition. However, before you progress, you must determine whether a market exists for the product or service your business aims at offering. Not only that, but you also need to figure out if any restructuring would be required in the future. In a nutshell, market research is imperative.

The customer research process is carried out to understand the reasons consumers will pay for a particular product. It is research on consumer behavior and how factors like societal and cultural agents influence that behavior.

Many business owners avoid this vital process in business development because they are afraid of adverse outcomes. They are usually adamant that they have the ideal product or service and don’t want to risk changing it.

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Another reason why customer research is avoided is the cost. Most business startups avoid customer research because it might be too expensive. With all of the other startup costs, it is difficult to consciously allocate limited capital to research that might prove there is not a need for your product in the marketplace.  

Regardless of the reason, avoiding customer research can lead to a bad market for your product. Good customer research helps your business identify its customers and know how much they are willing to pay for a particular product or service.

Essential Questions to Ask When Carrying Out Customer Research

  • What customers do you need to attract?

You need to know who your customers are by finding out primary data like their age, occupation, income, lifestyle, educational background, etc.

  • What do people buy, or what service do they require?

You also need to find what people buy or the service they require to be sure it aligns with what your business offers. This will help you realize their buying patterns relating to the product or service you offer. It will help you research how much they buy, their favorite products, their preferred price range, and the most popular features they enjoy.

  • Why do they buy?

Customer research shouldn’t stop at what they buy but should also extend to why. With this, you will attempt to dive into consumer’s heads. The results will depend on your kind of product and its various uses.

  • How do you convince them to buy from you?

There is surprisingly detailed information available about markets, like sales data and consumer purchase patterns. Acquiring all this information gets you well on your way to creating a largely successful product or service.

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Customer Research Methods

Customer research methods are of two broad types – primary and secondary research. Primary research involves direct customers’ study- that is, potential customers, whereas secondary research studies information that other individuals have gathered about customers in general. Understanding both types of customer research and knowing when to implement them is critical for the success of your startup is necessary.

Primary Research

This is research information that comes directly from the source. By the source, we mean consumers. This information is usually gathered through surveys and behavioral and observational testing of individuals or focus groups.

  • Surveys

Surveys as a type of primary customer research method is a general examination or review of customer behavior. If properly conducted, customer surveys are a helpful way to get valuable insight into your startup’s target audience’s feelings and attitude. Through a survey, you can first identify this audience and then know what their preferences are. Surveys ensure the process of launching new products and guarantee customer satisfaction is smooth.

  • Behavioral and Observational Testing

Behavioral and observational testing is not just a type of primary research but a very effective one. It helps you ascertain how customers will react to a product or service that could be positive or negative. Without the insights behavioral and observational testing provides, startups can only guess the mode of customer interaction with their products.

Secondary Research

This involves gathering statistical data, reports, conducting studies, and getting other information from external establishments such as trade associations and government agencies. Secondary research can also come from expert opinions or blogs written about customers and consumer behavior.

The majority of customer research that is done is secondary research. Large companies spend huge sums of money on market research due to their size and financial capacity.

Some places you can look into when conducting secondary customer research for your startup include:

  • Business Associations

Industries and trade associations give considerable amounts of information like market data, a list of consumers, books, and reference materials for customer research.

  • Colleges and Universities

Local colleges and universities are essential sources of information. Many college business departments have libraries that provide different materials to inform your startup about customer behavior across different business niches.

  • Community Organizations

Local business development agencies help with customer information. The information collected from community organizations may include market selection, demographic data, and various local businesses’ directories around you.

  • The Internet

Startup owners can perform most of their market research without even leaving their homes via their electronic devices due to technological advancement. The internet is home to different information on different subjects regarding customer behavior and analysis. You will discover business news, industry trends, new brands, and various company business data online.

However, the best way to carry out online research is, to begin with the primary consumer online services, which offer limited access to business databases.

Benefits of Customer Research for Your Startup

Conducting customer research is essential, especially for startups. Some of the direct benefits of customer research are:

  • It lowers the risk of marketing to the wrong audience
  • It increases business sales and productivity
  • It improves customer relations and management
  • It leads to business growth and expansion
  • It helps in measuring brand reputation


Startups need to put many things in place during their inception stage, and one of those is conducting customer research. Customer research for startups should not be neglected, as it goes a long way in determining the startup’s success or otherwise.

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