Did you know that 90% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or a service from a brand that provides personalized experiences? It’s true. Nearly all customers prefer to engage with brands that understand their individual needs and preferences.

In fact, customers are even more than willing to hand over data in trade for personalized experiences and products.

The question is not whether or not you should be capturing data. The question is which data collection methods will help you answer your most pressing research questions, so your brand can lead customers through a highly relevant and individualized customer journey.

Data collection methods in research vary greatly. This article will present an overview of the top research methods so your research unit can focus on the right approach for collecting qualitative and quantitative research data.

What to do before data collection

Before you dive right into collecting data on your customer personas, there is a series of checklist items you must address.

Without completing each of the following steps, you run the risk of missing an essential element that could invalidate your study or disqualify your results.

Before data collection, make sure you do the following:

  • Get permission, consent, and clearance from all parties. Depending on the type of study you conduct, you may have to obtain written permission and formal authorization. This could include obtaining informed consent forms from all your subjects and written permission from your organization and stakeholders.
  • Inform stakeholders of any changes in the study. As you plan and prepare to capture data, your research team may alter the study. Drastic changes could affect the way you conduct your research and how your subjects participate. Before moving along with the study, inform stakeholders of your changes. This will ensure you have jumped through all the right hoops and decrease risks of invalidation.
  • Plan to work appropriately with your participants. When capturing customer data, it’s critical to show that you care about them and that you are protecting them. Formally inform participants that their personal information will remain confidential, that you will protect their privacy, and that anonymity may be limited in small samples.
  • Hire the right market researchers and data scientists. Once you’ve obtained permission and informed participants of how you will be using their data, make sure you hire qualified market researchers and data scientists. Only qualified, highly trained, and unbiased individuals should capture and analyze data.

If you are able to check off the items listed above affirmatively, you’re ready to decide on the best data collection method for your research question.

What are the types of data collection methods?

Market researchers can collect research in several different ways. Here is an overview of the most common types of data collection methods.


Surveys are one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to capture data. There are several software programs available—including Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, and Survey Share—that provide an intuitive way for researchers to create, distribute, and analyze results.

Advantages of surveys:

  • It’s easy and inexpensive to collect data.
  • The population sampling options are robust.
  • Finishing a survey is not difficult.
  • Surveys are anonymous.
  • It’s possible to gather descriptive data.
  • Survey software helps quickly process and analyze results.
  • You can cover a wide range of topics.
  • Market researchers can replicate questionnaires with ease.

Disadvantages of surveys:

  • Self-report bias may occur.
  • Surveys may lack depth.
  • Surveys may lack context.

If your team is looking for quick answers to questions (e.g., CSAT or NPS info), surveys are a great way to go.

Individual Interviews

Individual interviews are a type of qualitative research when market researchers choose an ideal person to provide individualized feedback. The person market researchers select to complete the conversation should be representative of a general population or customer persona.

Interviews may be structured. This means there is no deviation in the questions among interviewees. Interviews may also be semi-structures. Semi-structured means the interviewer may deviate from questions to probe for more information when they find it necessary. Interviews can also be completely unstructured. This type of interview helps market researchers dive deep and glean an in-depth understanding of customer opinions, values, and attitudes.

Advantages of individual interviews:

  • They allow for in-depth question exploration.
  • Results can include rich details and valuable insights.
  • Face-to-face contact with respondents is often more productive.
  • They help market researchers get more insight that a survey could provide.
  • The interviewer is available to answer any questions or clear up confusion.

Disadvantages of individual interviews:

  • They are much more time consuming than surveys.
  • Interviews can be more expensive than surveys.
  • The require extensively trained interviewers.
  • The analysis process is convoluted.
  • The interviewee may experience recall error, selective perceptions, or give false information based on a desire to please the interviewer.

Market researchers that need to go beyond the scope of a survey to get detailed information should consider conducting individual interviews.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are another type of qualitative research study that is similar to interviews. The difference is, instead of interviewing one person, you are collecting information from a group of participants.

Just as with interviews, your focus group participants should be a good representative of your target population or customer profiles.

During a focus group, interviewers should ask a series of questions to understand their subjective experiences, attitudes, and reflections that group members share. Focus groups that go well include lots of direct interaction and open group participation from everyone.

Advantages of focus groups:

  • You can get high-quality data from interactive groups.
  • You get a more comprehensive representation of opinions than you do from an individual interview.
  • Focus groups allow for more detailed question probing than surveys.
  • Focus group leaders are available to answer questions when necessary.

Disadvantages of focus groups:

  • Some participants may do all the talking, while others do little or none.
  • Results may be skewed if subjects succumb to peer pressure or don’t feel entirely comfortable sharing genuine opinions.
  • It can be more expensive to conduct a focus group than it is to distribute a survey.

Focus groups are helpful if you are pretesting topics or ideas, looking to identify strengths and weaknesses and find useful recommendations, or looking to gather new insights about your business.


Observation is a type of research method where market researchers observe participants in a natural setting. Watching participants in a natural environment helps researchers gather firsthand data on behaviors, attitudes, and processes. They also offer market researchers the opportunity to see a wide range of behaviors in a more natural setting.

An observation can include a researcher going to an off-site location to observe someone in a natural setting. This could be in participants’ homes, in a store, or even watching them use technology. An observation can also be set up to run in a controlled setting where researchers control the variables.

Advantages of observation:

  • You can avoid self-reporting biases by watching participants in a natural environment.
  • You can gather direct data about your participants’ behavior.
  • You can identify any potential unanticipated outcomes.
  • Observation allows for a natural and flexible setting.

Disadvantages of observation:

  • It can take a long time to code data, analyze data, and put together valuable insights.
  • Observation is time-consuming and expensive.
  • Gleaning insight from an observation requires help from highly skilled researchers.
  • When participants know they are being watched, it may change how they behave.
  • Researchers are susceptible to selective and subjective perception.

Observation is an excellent data collection method when you need a real look into customer behaviors and want to learn how customers interact with your products or services.

Wrap Up

Data collection methods vary widely, and the method you use to capture your data will make a difference in the type of insights you collect.

For more information about data collection methods, how to create a reliable study, and for a look at the tools that will help you stay organized, contact Fuel Cycle today.