What Is Business Research? (With Methods and Examples)

Updated September 30, 2022

Business research is the process of gathering relevant information regarding a company's business activities and using it to maximize profit. Regardless of your experience and knowledge, learning about business research can help you improve your organization's output. Researching the subject can also have a positive effect on your career trajectory.

In this article, we discuss what business research is, mention common business research types and methods, provide a couple of examples and answer some frequently asked questions on the subject.

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What is business research?

Business research is the process through which a business improves its profits and organizational performance by gathering and analyzing relevant data regarding its operations. It's a continuous process that involves all aspects of an organization's business environment, like the markets the company is involved in, its competitors, local and global economic trends, technological breakthroughs in the field, new business practices and any other element that may affect the organization's operational efficiency. Top-level executives use the information they gather through business research to make informed decisions regarding the company's activities.

Related: What Is Research in Business? (With Definition and Types)

What are the types and methods of business research?

There are two main methods of business research, each with several specific types:

Qualitative research methods

Qualitative research involves getting relevant data through open-ended communication. Businesses generally use this method to discover the exact motivations behind the public's actions, with the purpose of increasing interest in the goods and services they sell. Some popular types of qualitative business research are:

  • Focus groups: This type of business research involves selecting a specific group of people and assessing their behavior and feedback regarding certain products or services. Companies typically choose people who fit the characteristics of their target audience to participate in focus groups and ask them open questions to determine how they can improve customer satisfaction.

  • Interviews: This kind of research generally involves a smaller number of subjects than focus groups. The subjects also receive open-ended questions regarding a company's goods and services, with the main difference being that interviews are more conversational than focus groups.

  • Case study research: This type of business research aims to assess customer satisfaction by discovering the main challenges that customers face when buying or using a specific product or service. Their purpose is to help company stakeholders gain a better understanding of the respective issues so they can provide effective solutions.

  • Ethnographic research: This involves the researcher attempting to understand the target audience's culture and behavior toward the company's products and services by adapting to their environment. It's typically challenging and time-consuming but can help an organization's stakeholders understand their customers' thought processes.

  • Website visitor profiling: This type of business research is relatively new and involves using surveys to collect data from people visiting the company's website. It can help a business understand their target audience's interaction with their website and assess their online presence.

Related: A Guide to Consumer Research (Plus Tips for Conducting It)

Quantitative research methods

Quantitative business research methods are those that rely on large amounts of data and use various statistical and mathematical techniques to draw relevant conclusions from it. They usually involve a data collection phase and a data analysis phase. Some common types of quantitative business research are:

  • Surveys: This type of business research involves asking a specific set of questions to a large number of potential and existing customers. Companies conduct surveys both online and offline and use the resulting data to improve their decision-making processes.

  • Causal-comparative: This kind of research involves comparing two situations to analyze how distinct variables can influence their outcome. It usually requires an independent variable and a dependent variable, with the research aiming to assess how the former influences the latter.

  • Correlational: This type of business research uses mathematical analysis techniques to analyze how two separate entities influence each other. Companies generally use it to understand how some of their actions influence their business outcome.

  • Experimental: This involves conducting experimental research with the purpose of proving or disproving a certain theory. Companies use it to assess various hypotheses regarding ways to improve their profits by carrying out experiments and observing their results.

  • Online and literature: This type of business research involves gathering information from online and offline publications with the purpose of gaining in-depth knowledge regarding a specific subject. Companies generally use it to understand specific markets or customer behaviors.

Related: How To Complete Market Research for Small Businesses

Examples of business research

Here are two examples of companies conducting market research:

Example 1

Consider this example of a quantitative research method:

Lakeside Time Fishing Bait Company decides to use a survey to conduct business research with the purpose of determining which types of fish their customers usually try to catch. They plan on using the information to focus bait production on the top three types of fish, narrowing down their target audience and improving organizational efficiency. They post the survey on their social media platforms and discover that their target audience mostly attempts to catch bass, catfish and carp.

Example 2

Consider this example of a qualitative research method:

A media production company wants to determine which of its media products are most likely to gain popularity and increase the company's profitability. They decide to use a focus group and gather 10 subjects from different backgrounds to ask them which types of shows they prefer and what their favorite medium is. The people conducting the focus group research ask the subjects specific questions to determine whether the target audience prefers fiction or nonfiction and whether they use TVs or other types of devices to consume their favorite media.

Related: 10 Methods of Market Research

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Frequently asked questions about business research

Here are two questions and answers regarding business research if you want to learn more:

What is the purpose of business research?

The general purpose of business research is to help an organization's stakeholders make appropriate decisions. Gathering relevant data in various ways helps executives understand their target customers and organize the company's operations in ways that maximize the chances of improving customer satisfaction. The purpose of business research can be specific to a certain department or product or related to the organization as a whole.

What are the general steps of a business research process?

Most research processes follow these steps:

  1. Identify what you intend to solve or improve.

  2. Formulate a hypothesis regarding how to do it.

  3. Review existing data on the subject.

  4. Experiment to test the validity of your hypothesis.

  5. Observe the results of your experiments.

  6. Draw conclusions from the experiment.

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