Data is a collection of facts, figures, objects, symbols, and events that have been gathered from different sources. Organizations collect data in order to take better decisions. Without data, it would be difficult for organizations to take appropriate decisions and so data is collected at various points in time from different audiences. For instance, before launching a new product, an organization needs to collect data on product demand, customer preferences, competitors, etc. In case data is not collected beforehand, the newly launched product of the organization may lead to failure for many reasons, such as less demand and inability to meet customer needs. 

Although data is a valuable asset for every organization, it does not serve any purpose until it is analyzed or processed to get the desired results. 

Data collection methods can be divided into two categories: primary methods of data collection and secondary methods of data collection.

Primary Data Collection Methods

Primary data is collected from the first-hand experience and is not used in the past. The data gathered by primary data collection methods are specific to the motive of the research, and highly authentic and accurate.

Primary data collection methods can be divided into two categories: quantitative methods and qualitative methods.

Quantitative Methods:

Quantitative techniques for market research and demand forecasting usually make use of statistical tools. In these techniques, demand is forecast based on historical data. These methods of primary data collection are generally used to make long-term forecasts. Statistical methods are highly reliable as the element of subjectivity is minimum in these methods.

Time Series Analysis

The term time series refers to a sequential order of values of a variable, known as a trend, at equal time intervals. Using trends, an organization can predict the demand for its products and services for the projected time. 

Smoothing Techniques

In cases where the time series lacks significant trends, smoothing techniques can be used. Smoothing techniques are used to eliminate a random variation from the historical demand. This helps in identifying patterns and demand levels that can be used to estimate future demand. The most common methods used in smoothing techniques of demand forecasting are simple moving average method and weighted moving average method. 

Barometric Method

Also known as the leading indicators approach, this method is used to speculate future trends based on current developments. When a past event is considered to predict the future event, the past event would act as a leading indicator.

Qualitative Methods:

Qualitative methods are especially useful in situations when historical data is not available, there is no need of numbers or mathematical calculations. Qualitative research is closely associated with words, sounds, feeling, emotions, colors and other elements that are non-quantifiable. These techniques are based on experience, judgment, intuition, conjecture, emotion, etc.

Quantitative methods do not provide the motive behind participants’ responses, often don’t reach underrepresented populations, and may span long periods to collect the data. Hence, it is best to combine quantitative methods with qualitative methods.

Surveys

Surveys are used to collect data from the target audience and gather insights into their preferences, opinions, choices, and feedback related to their products and services. Most survey maker software often a wide range of question types to select from.

You can also use a ready-made survey template to save on time and effort. Online surveys can be customized as per the brand of the business by changing the theme, logo, etc. They can be distributed through a number of distribution channels such as email, website, offline app, QR code, social media, etc. Depending on the type and source of your audience, you can select the channel.

Once the data is collected, survey software can generate various types of reports and run analytics algorithms to discover hidden insights. A survey dashboard can give you the statistics related to response rate, completion rate, filters based on demographics, export and sharing options, etc. You can maximize the effort spent on online data collection by integrating survey builder with third-party apps.

Polls

Polls comprise of one single or multiple choice question. When it is required to have a quick pulse of the audience’s sentiments, you can go for polls. Because they are short in length, it is easier to get responses from the people.

Similar to surveys, online polls too can be embedded into various platforms. Once the respondents answer the question, they can also be shown how do they stand as compared to the responses of others.

Interviews

In this method, the interviewer asks questions either face-to-face or through telephone to the respondents. In face-to-face interviews, the interviewer asks a series of questions to the interviewee in person and notes down responses. In case it is not feasible to meet the person, the interviewer can go for a telephonic interview. This form of data collection is suitable when there are only a few respondents. It is too time-consuming and tedious to repeat the same process if there are many participants.

Delphi Technique

In this method, market experts are provided with the estimates and assumptions of forecasts made by other experts in the industry. Experts may reconsider and revise their own estimates and assumptions based on the information provided by other experts. The consensus of all experts on demand forecasts constitutes the final demand forecast.

Focus Groups

A small group of people, around 8-10 members come together to discuss the common areas of the problem. Each individual provides his insights on the issue concerned. A moderator regulates the discussion among the group members. At the end of the discussion, the group reaches a consensus.

Questionnaire

A questionnaire is a printed set of questions, either open-ended or closed-ended, which the respondents are required to answer on the basis of their knowledge and experience with the issue concerned. Questionnaire is a part of survey, whereas the end-goal of a questionnaire may or may not be a survey.

Secondary Data Collection Methods

Secondary data is the data that has been used in the past. The researcher can obtain data from the sources both internal and external to the organization. 

Internal sources of secondary data:

  • Organization’s health and safety records
  • Mission and vision statements
  • Financial Statements
  • Magazines
  • Sales Report
  • CRM Software
  • Executive summaries

External sources of secondary data:

  • Government reports
  • Press releases
  • Business journals
  • Libraries
  • Internet

The secondary data collection methods too can involve both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Secondary data is easily available and hence, less time-consuming and expensive as compared to the primary data. However, in case of secondary data collection methods, the authenticity of the data gathered cannot be verified.