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Market Research Interviews


Disciplines > MarketingMarket Research > Market Research Interviews

When to use interviews | Designing the interview | Setting up the interview | Conducting the interview | After the interview | See also


The best way to understand your customers is to talk with them, prompting them with careful questions then listening carefully to their responses. This can be a relatively expensive process so should be used with care and as a part of a wider strategy of market learning.

When to use interviews

Interviews are a form of primary research, where you are going directly to customers to learn about their needs and opinions. If you already are sure about this or have access to secondary research (done by another organization) then interviews may not be needed.

Use interviews when:

  • You are developing or bringing out a new product.
  • You are entering a new market segment.
  • Your data about customers is old.
  • Customer needs and perceptions are changing quickly.
  • You are losing market to a competitor.
  • New and different products are being introduced into your marketplace.
  • The possible benefits of interviews are worth the cost.

Designing the interview

The most unsuccessful interviews are those where everyone just turns up.


The structure of the interview involves the division of time for specific discovery goals, using crafted questions. However, to draw out deeper understanding control must be loosened, giving space for provocation, reflection and realization.

Closed questions control time as they have short answers. Open questions can have many answers and wander off the beaten path. Other structural elements include the use of probing, introduction of products, watching videos, etc.


Where the interview takes place can vary. On the street simplifies recruitment but can give a biased sample. It is often short and focused. Being on neutral ground it can reduce apprehension yet there is little time for calming down.

Face-to-face is often best, and at their premises can be easiest for them. Interviewing in person enables relaxed interaction and appreciation of non-verbal communication. Remotely, phone interviews are easier and quicker but should be limited to about 15-20 minutes.

How many

How many people do you interview at once? One-to-one interviews are easier to set up and avoid group biases. Group interviews can be used to learn from social interaction and mitigate extreme individual views.

How many interviewers? One is easier, cheaper and less intimidating. Two lets one talk while the other observes, takes notes and helps probe. More lets interested others understand first hand.

Setting up the interview

There is more effort in preparation than is often realized. Enough interviewees must be found and their commitment gained. Typically at least 20 is needed and perhaps many more if greater confidence is needed or a wide spectrum of views is expected.

Rooms may need to be booked and refreshments ordered. Even if you are going to interview them at their premises, you may need to check there is somewhere quiet where you can talk. This also gives a good reason to check their commitment to the interview.

And very importantly you must be ready yourself. Ensure you have all questions ready and perhaps test these on a colleague to check they are unambiguous and sufficient for your purpose. Also check how long you will need and that this time is available. If necessary, edit your question set.

Conducting the interview

In the interview, start by thanking them, describing briefly what you will be asking and how the results will be used. Also check they are ok with the timescales. If you are recording their responses, do ask permission for this.

Ask your questions and note responses. If you are writing these, have prepared space in which to do this. Try to keep up as when you are writing you are not looking at them and slowing down the conversation.

Answer questions they have but do not get side-tracked. Stick to the timetable and finish at or before the agreed time for the end of the interview.

After the interview

After the interview, write up notes in the shorter-term, including any impressions you have gained, for example around uncertainty or interest.

After completing all interviews collate and analyze the results, looking for common factors and various differences. Seek useful conclusions but beware of your enthusiasm for this leading to weak indicators being taken as stronger than they are.

See also

Social Research


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