How well do you know your customers? In today’s increasingly competitive business landscape, customer research has become a necessity.
Even the world’s biggest companies (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) still thoroughly research past, current, and prospective customers to uncover insights, improve their product offerings, and create more effective marketing campaigns.
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on focus groups or consultancy firms to gain a firm understanding of what your customers think — I certainly don’t. That’s because there is an abundance of online market research tools and data sources that any size business can use.
And yes, there are even some you can use for free.
Ready to learn what your audience really thinks? These are the 19 best market research tools to use.
Benefits of Leveraging Marketing Research
There’s a reason the global revenue of the market research industry has more than doubled since 2008 and is now valued in excess of $76.4 billion. It comes with a heap of benefits. Any business wanting to improve its product or launch a new marketing campaign will be at a significant disadvantage without market research.
So, before I review the best tools for market research, let me take a second to explain why market research is so important.
By conducting market research, you ensure your target audience remains at the center of every decision you make.
When you understand their needs and desires, you can tailor everything from your product to your marketing to your customer. In doing so, you’ll reduce the number of bad customer experiences—one or two of which are enough to make 64% of customers switch to a competitor.
Market research tools can also help you discover new business opportunities and threats. New opportunities become obvious when speaking to customers and understanding their behavior. The same applies to competitors that could threaten your business if you don’t act.
You can also use market research to help create customer personas, which can significantly improve the effectiveness of your marketing. Customer personas are fictional examples of your ideal consumer that describe the characteristics and buying motives of specific customer categories. When you have customer personas, you can make sure every product or marketing decision is made to appeal to at least one customer persona. They can also help you create marketing campaigns specifically catered to each persona.
Ultimately, you’ll be at a disadvantage if you don’t leverage market research. The truth is that 6 out of 10 marketers are using consumer research to drive their decisions. Better informed decisions usually lead to more effective marketing campaigns. So without market research, there is a real possibility of your company being left behind by competitors.
How to Use Marketing Research Data in Your Marketing
There are plenty of ways to leverage market research throughout your business. You could use it to create new products, improve existing ones, or change the design of your packaging. But using customer research to inform and optimize your marketing strategy, from campaign creation to execution, is one of the most powerful.
For instance, market research can ensure your new product launch avoids being delayed and meets its targets. By understanding what customers think, you can create a product that solves their pain points and position it in a way they understand. There’s no need to revert to the drawing board because of a bad focus group, and you can have every confidence the product will sell.
Market research can also help you focus your marketing efforts on areas of untapped opportunity. That could be by creating a new campaign that targets a new customer persona. Or you could use research to understand what customers are searching for and target topics with little competition. Focusing your efforts here, rather than on saturated verticals, will send your ROI soaring.
Finally, you can use market research data to optimize your marketing efforts after launch. Analyzing social media and other types of user engagement data can highlight how effective each message is so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Social listening can also help you make the most of good publicity and resolve any negative sentiment.
As you can see, market research is invaluable whether you are creating a campaign or optimizing one.
8 Best Free Marketing Research Tools
You don’t have to spend a dime to benefit from market research. There are plenty of free market research tools out there. I’ve highlighted eight of my favorites below.
1. Google Trends
Google Trends is one of the leading market analysis tools on the internet — and it’s completely free to use.
It was introduced in 2006 and tracks the popularity of Google search topics over time and by location. For example, you can see exactly how many people searched for Taylor Swift in the U.S. this year. Or how searches for Brexit have declined in the U.K. since 2019.
At the time of writing, Google processes 99,000 searches every second. That’s over 85 billion searches every day, making it the largest and most valuable search data source in existence. But you don’t have to analyze that data yourself, Google Trends does it all for you.
The most common way to use Google Trends is to find out how the popularity of a term has changed over time. Simply enter a trend and Google will show you the popularity of that term with a line graph and give you a score out of 100. You can also compare different terms.
You can do a lot of things with Google Trends data, including:
- Finding topics that are growing in popularity to blog about
- Identifying seasonal trends to leverage
- Discovering long-tail keywords
- Learning about new topics to discuss in market research sessions
Pros of Google Trends
- Easy to use
- Visually appealing
- Huge amount of data
Cons of Google Trends
- Doesn’t show the exact search volume
- Related topics aren’t always relevant
2. Facebook Page Insights
Page Insight by Meta is a fantastic free market research option if you use Facebook to market your business. And, if you don’t use Facebook for marketing yet, you probably should. With 2.9 billion monthly active users, it’s one of the best social media platforms for marketing.
The tool provides insights into your audience, post performance, and page health. You can use the tool to see who likes your page, discover which posts get the most engagement, and learn how to increase the reach of your content.
If you’re struggling to get started, Facebook offers two courses: one on how to generate insights and make data-driven recommendations and one on how to make the most of marketing insights.
Pros of Page Insights
- Unparalleled insight into your Facebook audience
- Easy to use
- Courses available
Cons of Page Insights
- Limited to your Facebook pages
3. Think With Google
Think With Google is one of the search giant’s lesser-known tools, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. It’s a free-to-use resource library of facts and figures based on Google’s own data and other research that can supercharge your marketing efforts.
If you want a broad understanding of what’s going on in the world of marketing, Think With Google is a great starting point. Search the platform, and you can uncover marketing trends, understand the latest consumer behavior and find the insights you need to drive your marketing strategy.
The site is split into four areas (Consumer Insights, Marketing Strategies, Future of Marketing, and Tools) which you can use to find the most appropriate insights for your brand.
The first three are pretty self-explanatory. The Tools section acts as your digital marketing toolbox, allowing you to access Google’s other research tools like Find My Audience and Market Finder in one place.
Pros of Think With Google
- Huge resource of statistics and studies
- Easy to use
- Great for marketing research
Cons of Think With Google
- Limited to marketing studies
4. Answer The Public
See a familiar face? I’m delighted to say that Answer The Public is now part of the NP family. I wanted to acquire the site because I think it is one of the leading market research websites and a great free asset for anyone involved in marketing.
Answer The Public is incredibly easy to use.
Simply enter a topic, a region, and a language, and you’ll get a whole set of adjacent topics and questions that people are searching for about the subject. On top of that, Answer the Public puts these in flat data sets or handy data visualizations for you to share with your teams.
This is one of the best ways to get hundreds of long-tail keywords that you can either include on FAQ sections of your page or create entire articles on. It’s also a great way to brainstorm questions if you are creating a customer survey.
Pros of Answer The Public
- Easy interface to get you insights fast
- Data visualization to make sharing insights easier
- Incredible insights on how a subject is approached in search.
Cons of Answer The Public
- Limited users and searches with a free plan — but upgrading gives you a variety of other features, including comparing data over time and search listening alerts.
Premium plans range from $79 to $199 per month.
5. U.S. Census Bureau
The U.S. Census Bureau website is another one of the best market research websites and lets you search U.S. census data for free. The Bureau of the Census conducts over 130 surveys annually (which the Government uses to allocate billions of dollars in federal funds), making it an in-depth source of reliable data.
You can filter by several variables, including age, location, and income. It also provides visualization of some of the data sets. One interesting way to use this data is to filter the results using your business’ NAICS code to see where and with whom your industry is most popular. This is a great way to discover new target markets if you only operate in one area of the country.
Pros of U.S. Census Bureau
- One of the biggest demographic resources online
- Easy to search through reports
Cons of U.S. Census Bureau
- Limited to the U.S.
- Older census reports can become outdated quickly
One of the best ways to learn about your audience’s pain points — and, ultimately, solve them — is to learn about the kinds of questions they are asking.
This is what makes Quora such a great free tool for market research. If you don’t know already, Quora is a global platform that lets users ask questions about almost any topic. Other users — who usually provide their credentials — write answers.
You can think of Quora like a sophisticated Yahoo! Answers, for those who remember that. People ask questions, and other people – experts, content creators, anyone – answer them.
Use the search tool on Quora to search keywords related to your industry. Let’s say you operate in the B2B sector helping new entrepreneurs start their businesses. You might type “entrepreneurship” into the search bar:
Begin to read through the feed and you will see the same kinds of topics and questions discussed over and over again. This is a great source of evergreen content ideas.
You can even use the exact language and concerns the asker uses to create content that gives your readers exactly what they want (and makes them think you read their mind – because you did!):
Quora does a lot of the hard work for you by listing related questions (on the right-hand side).
How’s that for being handed content ideas that will delight your audience on a silver platter? You can even drive traffic to your website by offering your expertise and answering questions yourself.
Pros of Quora
- Huge resource of questions on popular topics
- Wide range of answers to help you solve customer pain points
- Highly searchable
- Free to use
Cons of Quora
- Not every topic is covered in-depth
- Can get bogged down finding very similar questions
As far as free market research tools go, Reddit is among the best. It isn’t called the front page of the internet for nothing.
Reddit has over 57 million daily active users across 200+ countries, which means that at least some of your target audience almost certainly spends time on the platform.
Reddit is completely free to use and revolves around communities called subreddits where a group of people discusses common topics.
To find your audience on Reddit, search your keywords in the subreddit search tool. For example, if you were in the nutrition industry, you might type in “nutrition” to bring up a list of subreddits related to that topic.
Then, start combing through the “top” results in the subreddit.
You can see the amount of “upvotes” between the arrows on the left-hand side of the post, which is a gauge of the popularity of a post.
In the example above, you’ll note that two of the top three most popular posts talk about macronutrients (protein and fiber).
You can use this data to create content silos that will delight your audience and help them achieve the results they want. What would be more compelling to you as somebody struggling to get enough energy during the day – a headline that the content creator obviously guessed at, or a piece of content that actually addresses what you’re struggling with?
Reddit is magic for any content marketer.
Pros of Reddit
- Hundreds of thousands of subreddits to browse
- Honest conversations on a range of topics
- Great for finding common questions and learning what people think about your brand
Cons of Reddit
- Discussions can get heated
- Big focus on the U.S. market
8. Industry Blogs
One of the best ways to create content to delight your audience is by plugging in the gaps in their knowledge.
Have you ever tried to find information that just didn’t seem to be out there? It’s frustrating and such a relief when you finally find what you are looking for. Your audience feels the same pain when they can’t find the information they need.
How do you find these knowledge gaps? By going to the places your audience is having conversations about your topic:
If you aren’t familiar with any blogs about your topic, use a tool like Alltop.com to find popular blogs in your industry. For example, if you’re a career coach, you might choose “Careers”:
You could choose any of these blogs, but the best blogs to focus on are large, popular, single-authored blogs. These tend to drive the most comments.
When you’ve found a blog that fits the bill, read through a couple of the most popular blog posts and take note of what the blogger isn’t saying, and what readers are asking in the comments sections.
Read through the comments, and take note of the trends in the type of questions people are asking.
This will help you fill in the gaps and give your audience the information they need rather than competing with the information they’ve already been given.
Pros of Industry Blogs
- Hear directly from potential customers
- Discover opportunities to meet your competition
- Loads of blogs to search depending on your industry
Cons of Industry Blogs
- Niche industries may have a hard time finding blogs
- Very time intensive to sift through blog comments.
- A lot of comments don’t offer value
11 Best Paid Marketing Research Tools
Free market research tools are a great way to dip your toes into the industry. However, there will always be limitations when you don’t pay for the data. If you’re serious about market research, you’re going to want to pay for premium access. These are the best paid market research tools to use.
So far, we’ve only discussed secondary data sources. A primary data source would involve gathering results yourself from customers and members of your target audience through surveys.
QuestionPro is a great option, and it’s one of my favorite premium market analysis tools. The platform helps you build just about any survey you can imagine, and includes must-have features like survey logic (technology that alters the format of your survey depending on how customers answer).
Any of the company’s plans are great for making, distributing, and analyzing surveys. Importantly, all users can get 24/7 LiveChat support, which is a huge asset. Surveys can be sent through a variety of means, including email, links, social media, embedded text, etc. Analysis can be done in-app or through an export.
Pros of QuestionPro
- Easy to start using, especially with built-in templates
- A generous free plan
- 24/7 LiveChat support for all
Cons of QuestionPro
- Mastering the software takes time
- User interface prioritizes function over aesthetics
Price of QuestionPro
The Basic plan is free, while the Advanced plan costs $99 per month.
SurveyMonkey is one of the best and most popular survey tools, with over 20 million questions answered using the platform each day.
The company’s enterprise-grade platform makes it easy to create, send out, and analyze surveys. There are over 200 templates you can use to get started, and they are all customizable.
Surveys can be sent via a link, email, social media, or embedded into a web page. You can browse through individual responses or use the tool’s custom reports and charts to visualize data.
Pros of SurveyMonkey
- Easy to use
- Good template selection
- Great free plan
Cons of SurveyMonkey
- Analytics could be improved
- Lack of customer support
Price of SurveyMonkey
The basic plan is free. The standard plan costs $99 per month.
Statista is a hub of visual data, market research reports, and statistics. It collates data from several reputable sources, turning most of them into graphs and charts that are easy to digest. Because Statista’s data is continually updated, you can keep coming back to the same chart year after year to see how trends are changing.
The site has data on almost any topic you can imagine, making it a great way to discover consumer behavior and market trends, no matter your business.
Getting started with Statista is as easy as searching for a particular topic. The site’s search functionality is excellent and will return hundreds of reports and dashboards that you can use to influence or support your marketing efforts.
Pros of Statista
- One of the best statistical resources online
- Great UX
- Easy to search for data
Cons of Statista
- Free plan is limited
- Limited visual options beyond standard charts and graphs
Price of Statista
The basic account is free. The premium account costs $39 per month when billed annually.
Typeform is another survey-based market research tool and an alternative to SurveyMonkey. It benefits from a user-friendly design and comes bursting with a bunch of pre-made templates, making it easy to create forms and online surveys that you can send to customers. Typeform drives more than 500 million digital interactions every year and integrates with hundreds of other apps.
You can format questions in multiple ways, including multiple-choice, scale ratings, and open-ended answers—perfect for collecting quantitative and qualitative data. You can even use conditional logic to change the structure of your survey based on a respondent’s answers.
The respondent experience is also different. Unlike other survey tools, respondents are only shown a single question at a time. This makes for a more user-friendly and less intimidating experience that can increase the number of responses.
Pros of Typeform
- Easy to use
- Strong data visualization
Cons of Typeform
- Lack of customer support
- Data reporting isn’t amazing
Price of Typeform
Limited free plan available. Premium plans start from $25 per month billed annually.
Think of BuzzSumo as the content marketing and social media market research tool. It analyzes over 8 billion articles and 300 trillion social engagements, so you can see which topics or types of content receive the most engagement, what’s getting shared on social media, and find influencers who can help increase the reach of your content.
This makes BuzzSumo an incredibly effective research tool for any marketer looking to put together a content marketing strategy. There’s no need to second-guess what’s going to rank well and receive engagement when you can use BuzzSumo to see what’s getting traction at the moment.
There are several ways you can use BuzzSumo. The easiest way is to use the tool’s Content Analyzer to search for a topic and see which articles have the most engagement. You can also set up alerts to monitor mentions of a particular optic or keywords.
Pros of BuzzSumo
- accurate social share counts
- great for competitor research
Cons of BuzzSumo
- doesn’t include every social media channel
- filtering could be better
Price of BuzzSumo
Free plan available. Premium plans start from $119 per month.
Qualtrics is an all-in-one market research tool. From creating advanced surveys to segmenting markets and analyzing data, Qualtrics does it all. Create your own survey to gather data or upload an existing data set, and Qualtrics will run statistical tests and apply visualizations to help you gather insights.
There’s no need to spend time finding respondents for your surveys, either. You can use the platform to find a representative sample of your target audience and have them fill in your survey.
There’s even on-demand training to help you get the most from the platform.
Pros of Qualtrics
- Easy to build surveys
- Excellent data reporting
Cons of Qualtrics
- Software has a steep learning curve
- Limited customization of surveys
Price of Qualtrics
Qualtrics provides personalized pricing. Please contact them for a quote.
Qualaroo is an advanced customer survey tool that helps you ask the right questions at the right times. What separates Qualaroo from other survey tools is that you can embed surveys into your site, allowing you to catch users in real time, with context. That makes their responses significantly more valuable and insightful.
Creating surveys is easy, thanks to a wide range of templates and customization options. Analyzing and reporting results is also a breeze courtesy of the platform’s AI-powered analytics tool. There are also tons of other features like dozens of answer types, branching questions, and automatic language translation.
Pros of Qualaroo
- Easy to create and deploy surveys
- Analytics reduces reporting time
- Easy to learn
Cons of Qualaroo
- Pre-built templates can be generic
- Dashboards could be improved
Price of Qualaroo
Plans start from $69 per month billed annually.
BrandMentions is another social media monitoring platform similar to BuzzSumo but with a greater emphasis on social media. It estimates it currently analyzes billions of social media mentions for over 10,000 companies.
You can use the tool to quickly understand social media users’ opinions on practically any topic. Simply search for a keyword, and BrandMentions will display the most recent social posts as well as the context in which it was used. So not only do you see what people are saying, you understand the broader sentiment around the topic.
The tool also shows a range of other metrics, including how many people view the topic each day, how many people engage with the topic, and which days the topic trends on.
Pros of BrandMentions
- Great for social media research
- Can also be used for brand monitoring
- Intuitive UX
Cons of BrandMentions
- Can be time-consuming to automate reports
- Only analyzes social media data
Price of BrandMentions
Plans start from $99 per month.
Global research and advisory firm Gartner is a heavyweight when it comes to market research. The company has three core services (trusted insights, strategic advice, and practical tools). We’re only going to focus on its trusted insights offering here.
Gartner’s trusted insights offer an incredible amount of detailed, verified, and peer-driven research. It’s a fantastic way to identify trends in your industry, spot gaps in the market, and discover other insights to power your business.
These reports are at another level compared to other research teams. Gartner boasts over 2,000 research experts and several proprietary research methodologies to deliver objective and unmatched insights.
Pros of Gartner
- Unmatched insights
- Unbiased data
Cons of Gartner
- Very expensive
Price of Gartner
Plans start at $30,000.
Tableau is a business intelligence suite centered around data visualization. You can connect to almost any data source, and Tableau will transform that data into beautiful visual reports that make it easy to analyze and share with stakeholders.
You don’t need to know any code to use Tableau, and the tool makes it easy to be as broad or granular as you like with data analysis. Import data from tons of different data sources, like PDFs, spreadsheets, and Google Analytics.
Tableau is a trusted market research tool for some of the country’s biggest companies, including Verizon, Lenovo, and Charles Schwab.
Pros of Tableau
- Best visual data reporting tool
- Acts as a central repository for data
- Analyzing data is easy
Cons of Tableau
- Can be slow to upload large data sources
- Requires you to source your own data
Price of Tableau
Tableau Explorer starts at $42 billed annually.
Ubersuggest is one of the best tools for doing SEO and PPC-focused market research. Full transparency, this is a tool I created, but I would think it’s pretty awesome even if I didn’t make it.
Put a phrase into the search bar, and it will provide you with a list of other relevant keywords people are searching for, along with search volume and a difficulty score. You can also enter your own domain or that of a competitor to identify areas for improvement.
It’s a great tool for identifying the size of a potential market, how competitive that market is, and what chance you have of ranking in it. You can also use it to get the low-down on a competitor and find out which audiences they’re targeting.
Pros of Ubersuggest
- Great UX
- One of the best market research tools for digital marketing
- Wide range of affordable plans
Cons of Ubersuggest
- Limited to SEO and PPC data
Price of Ubersuggest
Ubersuggest has a free plan that allows for 3 keyword searches a day with limited insights.
Paid plans start at $29 per month or $290 for lifetime access.
Market Research Tools Frequently Asked Questions
Market research tools are online or offline platforms and services that help businesses discover the opinions of their target audience on a range of topics. Market research tools can include data analytics, social media listening, online form builders, and competitor intelligence platforms.
The best tool for market research is the one that helps your company learn the most about your target audience. For some businesses, that will be an analytics tool like Google Trends. For others, it will be a customer survey tool like Qualaroo.
A market analysis is a multi-step process.
First you must research your industry as a whole
Next, investigate your competitors
Find gaps in the market
Define a target audience
Identify risks and challenges
Create a go-to-market strategy
Market research tools are vital at almost every stage of the process.
There are five main techniques for conducting primary research: surveys, one-on-one interviews, observational studies, focus groups, and field trials.
You can learn a lot from market research. You can discover what your target audience thinks about your brand and product, how they view the wider market, what they think about competitors, and their pain points.
The best insight from market research is the one that you can use to achieve your product or marketing goals.
If you are on a budget, there are plenty of free market research tools available. However, the best market research tools cost money and provide access to more data and additional capabilities that can increase the effectiveness of your market research. For the most part, they are worth the cost.
Market research uncovers important information about your business and target market that can highlight opportunities for your business that would otherwise be missed. It can also help you improve your go-to-market strategy, optimize existing campaigns and create new products.
Conclusion: Market Research Tools
Market research tools are an invaluable way to find out exactly what your target audience is thinking. Whether you use free market research tools or paid market research tools, you can uncover plenty of insights that can have a transformative effect on your business.
Now you understand the power of market research and the wide range of tools you can use there is no excuse not to take action. Stop making uninformed decisions and start taking time to understand your customers and use that information to inform your marketing strategy.
What are your favorite market research tools?
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