The importance of diversity in market research

Jane Hillman
|October 24, 2023

Puerto Ricans and African American children with moderate to severe asthma demonstrate lower responsiveness to albuterol, the drug used in inhalers. But this drug is FDA-approved — so why wouldn’t its ineffectiveness have come up during trials? Likely because up to 80 to 90% of clinical trial participants are White.

The stakes may not be as high, but diversity is no less important in market research. If a lack of diversity is overlooked for something as imperative as healthcare, imagine the insight businesses could be missing without a diverse participant pool in their market research surveys.

Diversity in market research isn’t just a buzzword or a way to garner positive PR. It’s the key to unlocking tangible business insights and truly inclusive product offerings through higher quality research and more accurate conclusions.

Audience diversity improves quality and accuracy

With more diversity in your audience sampling, you’ll gain a more accurate and realistic understanding of consumer preferences that are representative of the actual population. You’ll be able to draw strong conclusions that apply not just to your research sample but to the wider audience you care about.

The sample in a given study represents a very small percentage of the total population. If that sample is overrepresented by folks of a certain race, gender, socioeconomic class, or other demographic, you can’t accurately apply the results to the rest of the population. Your study’s generalizability may be fairly low. Even a small disparity in representation in a sample size of 1,000 can quickly lead to larger gaps and inaccuracies if the data is extrapolated across the whole population — that’s one reason why weighting is so important when oversampling does occur.

Let’s say you were conducting some market research into Millennials before launching an ad campaign. You’d want the insights from your research to be accurate and to truly represent your audience. Thirty-nine percent of Millennials are people of racial or ethnic minorities. If only 15% of your audience sample includes these minorities, your sample will include disproportionately more White people than the actual population, and you’ll be missing key perspectives that resonate with over one-third of the market share.

But with a diverse audience sample, you can ensure that everyone’s voice is being heard. “Inclusive market research demystifies more customers’ motivations, preferences and behaviors,” writes Forbes. You’re gaining the full picture of what your audience thinks and feels before you go to market instead of only considering voices from certain groups. 

Audience diversity provides deeper insight into consumer preferences

Diverse sampling gives you more insight into specific demographics and their purchasing habits, so you can make more informed, effective marketing decisions. You’ll identify how to make your brand or product experience better and more inclusive toward specific groups of people.

People across different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds often have different lifestyles and experiences. That leads to different interactions with brands, nuances in taste and preference, and shifts in buying habits. For your brand to capitalize, you need to understand the factors influencing these habits for specific demographics.

For example, a Nielsen study found that 53% of Black women “look for vehicles that offer spirited performance and powerful acceleration,” a number that’s 51% higher than non-Hispanic White women. And for 54% of Black women, a top consideration when purchasing a car is “having a vehicle that is fun to drive” — also notably higher than non-Hispanic White women by 28%.

In a separate Gartner survey, results showed that members of the LGBTQ+ community place more value on environmentalism and sensuality, or “experiences that please the five senses” than other consumers. But why do these differences in values, preferences, and behavior matter to a marketer? Because if you want to create campaigns and product experiences that will resonate, you need to understand what’s shaping your target audience’s decisions. With these insights, for example, a car brand may decide to showcase speed and acceleration in its next commercial. Or a swimsuit company may call out a partnership with a coastal conservation nonprofit in its next ad campaign.

Diversity in research is the key to unlocking those insights and can also help you be more inclusive toward marginalized groups who might not be served by current product offerings. Black consumers, for instance, are more likely to switch between brands. And they’re also more likely to find the brand worse than expected once they do. This data suggests there’s a gap in truly inclusive product offerings for marginalized groups, and diverse research can help uncover what’s missing so brands can build more rewarding experiences that are tailored to their customer’s needs.

Diversity in market research makes for a more inclusive brand

Companies whose audience samples reflect real-world diversity can use their research findings to create inclusive ad campaigns, messaging, and branding. Diversity in research is crucial not only for making more effective internal marketing decisions but also for building a brand where the audience feels represented and empowered.

Surface-level attempts at diversity in advertising and marketing will no longer cut it for brands hoping to make an impression. Consumers now expect brands to “authentically reflect a range of backgrounds and experiences within their messaging,” according to Deloitte. Deloitte’s survey found that younger consumers in particular (18 to 25 years old) are more likely to take note of inclusive advertising when they’re making buying decisions.

When brands fail to include marginalized groups in their advertising, it can have a sizable impact on audience perception. A study done in the UK found that two-thirds of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people “would feel more positive about brands that showcase different cultures in their ad campaigns.” Further, when companies are truly inclusive, their campaigns are more effective. 64% of those surveyed by Google took some type of action “after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse or inclusive.”

Market research helps you identify what will resonate with your audience from a brand and messaging perspective. Without a representative sample, you can’t hope to be inclusive or impactful with a diverse audience in the real world. Gaining access to a diverse audience pool is an important step toward uncovering learnings that inform inclusive brand and marketing campaigns.

High-quality findings begin from a diverse participant pool

There’s still a lag between the image brands are striving for and the actions they’re taking to become more inclusive. A diverse participant pool in market research can help close that gap. 

Many marketers want to take action in terms of diversity and inclusion, but they’re not sure where to start or how to better inform their own decision-making. The path forward is to ensure you conduct your research with a sample that accurately reflects the diversity of your audience in the real world.

Prolific helps you quickly find market research participants from a diverse pool, so you can count on quality results.

Filter through over 250 demographic filters, including race and ethnicity, gender identity, and location, to ensure you’re not missing key insights across a diverse population. Learn more about how to get started.