Is market research the final frontier for smaller brands?

Katie Tucker, Author of Do Penguins Eat Peaches? And other unexpected ways to discover what your customers want, on the importance of market research

Katie Tucker

Product Leader and Author Product Jungle


These days, nearly everyone can launch a brand. Barriers are low, technology pretty much free and business courses and advice aplenty. Most of the support centres around levelling up your marketing, branding, selling, copywriting, PR, design and more recently AI skills (all important!). Throw in advice from coaches and mentors on self-belief, passion, and grit, and there you (should) have it: brand success.

Memorable marketing, savvy social media, top notch branding and palpable passion. You could have all those things, and still your business could flop.

One fundamental business practice is so often missing from smaller brands’ knowledge arsenal. A practice I see, time and time again, being done clumsily, half-heartedly, or in some cases, not at all. Market research. In other words, the art and skill of collecting and studying information about what people want, need, and buy.

Pretty foundational stuff when it comes to running a business.

Market research is not sexy. I get it. Collette Doyle, former editor of the Market Research Society (MRS) magazine Impact hit the nail on the head in an editorial when she wrote: “Whenever the term pops up…people…tend to picture a grizzled, white-haired gentleman with horn-rimmed glasses, brandishing a clipboard”.

Sexy or not, big business is all over it. Calling it something different perhaps, something with a bit more street cred: Customer Insight. Customer discovery. Audience analysis. Customer research. User research (UX). Design research. Service design. Customer experience (CX). The fact is, as the competitive landscape becomes more crowded and the economic pressure more acute, corporates and tech giants are increasingly seeking out answers to why their customer behave the way they do.

The global market research services industry was worth $81.13 billion in 2022, according to The Business Research Company. In the UK alone, the MRS valued the sector at £8 billion. That’s a lot of cash being thrown at understanding customers, with larger businesses making up a sizeable chunk of that spend.

Big companies may well have bigger teams, more generous budgets, and resource, but smaller brands are more than capable of implementing good enough research. In an increasingly challenging economic climate, it’s a game-changing practice for any brand wanting to stay in the game.

Not doing it can certainly cost you. 60% of small businesses shut shop within their first three years according to a report by Resolve Financial. It’s not just bad luck or by choice, businesses fail when they don’t sell enough of what they have to offer. In fact, no market need (aka nobody buying what you sell) is the second most common reason new ventures fail, according to market intelligence platform CB Insights. Finding a snug fit between your offer and the market requires more than luck.

The skills and resources on how to understand customers are out there. They exist and can be applied beyond corporates and tech giants. For too long, the methods and savoir-faire have been locked away in corporate boardrooms, academic arenas, and specialist, jargon-heavy business books. It’s time to level the playing field between big and small. Whether you’re running a FTSE 100 company or a niche brand, the fundamentals of business are the same. You have something to sell, and you need customers to buy it.

Market research helps with that. It helps brands plan, prioritise, and move beyond their unconscious biases. It helps de-risk ideas and ensures they put things out into the world that delight customers and make money. It’s a practice and a skill. From asking the right questions, crafting smarter surveys to piggybacking off existing research and leveraging ever-evolving clever online tools, it’s a practice worth weaving into to the fabric of your brand.

When it comes to customer understanding, so much can be done in-house. But there are times when seeking out specialist help is the right thing to so. Whether to reassure investors when pitching for funding, troubleshooting marketing copy that’s not converting, testing a high-risk idea, to entering new markets and conducting large sample surveys, there’s a range of support out there for all budgets *.

Is market research the final frontier in terms of skills for brands? For the smart ones, I think so.

*MRS has a handy directory of accredited market research service providers on their website. The list includes boutique agencies, independent freelancers, and some of the biggest names in research.


To purchase Katie’s book click here.

Guest Author

Katie Tucker

Product Leader and Author Product Jungle


Katie Tucker helps businesses understand customers. She founded her boutique consultancy, Product Jungle, in 2020 and is the author of the Amazon bestselling book Do Penguins Eat Peaches? And other unexpected ways to discover what your customers want. (Practical Inspiration Publishing, 2023).