The information obtained as the foundation for marketing research is often referred to as data, and we distinguish between primary and secondary data. The former is knowledge gathered via a study effort conducted for a particular goal. The latter is the knowledge that already exists, either due to prior research activity or for another reason.
Secondary data may be obtained inside a corporation, particularly in sales records. When utilized for marketing research, such data will most likely need to be reorganized. For example, sales of a certain product are often reported customer by customer, although the study may need a regional split. Alternatively, numerous external secondary data sources are accessible, including government departments, trade organizations, professional bodies, the press, speciality research firms, etc. The increased availability, power, and flexibility of computers make it easier to make this information instantly accessible to decision-makers. A growing number of databases are now available online.
Some research organizations run syndicated research programs on certain subjects. These are cooperative research programs funded by donations from each participating company. It is usually feasible to ‘purchase into’ such a program and acquire access to previously gathered data.
Alternatively, agencies may occasionally research and sell the findings to anybody interested. Trade organizations often make some information freely accessible to their members while charging ‘outsiders’ for it. This information is increasingly being integrated into a comprehensive ‘Marketing Information System’ that is regularly updated. Desk research is identifying relevant sources of secondary information, obtaining pertinent data, and analyzing it.
The Gathering of Primary Data
If the information needed for a certain marketing research study does not already exist as secondary data, we must figure out how to get it. There are three basic techniques for gathering primary data: observation, experiment, and survey. It is the third strategy most people think of when they think about market research. However, the first two also play a vital role in some situations.
It is often preferable to observe what individuals do rather than ask them what they do. This benefits eliminating any interviewer bias and avoiding the issue that individuals do not always recall their activities – particularly minor ones – very vividly. A concealed camera, for example, may be the greatest way to establish how consumers walk around a store, while a tape recorder may be the finest way to establish salesmen’s sales strategy. Similarly, a physical count is often used to determine the number of traffic on major roadways and the volume of various brands sold by major retail locations (increasingly via an electronic point of sale – EPOS – installations).
A simulation of a real-world event may be a better technique for predicting future behaviour than asking individuals hypothetical questions. If we want to know which of two feasible packages housewives would prefer, we may set them side by side in a real or dummy store, give a group of housewives a shopping list and money to spend, and observe which bundle they choose. Similarly, giving a group of youngsters a selection of toys to play with and seeing what occurs is one method of determining children’s preference for one toy over another (how they play can also yield valuable insights). Of course, test marketing is an example of an experiment used to gather marketing research data.
Basic Survey Types
If primary data collection by the survey is required, three options are available. Personal interviews, telephone interviews, and mail surveys are the three types. As we go down this list, the cost lowers, but so does the dependability and scope of the available information. Personal interviews are the most adaptable and may be conducted reasonably easily with a well-chosen sample. A significant number of specific questions may be asked, with replies reinforced by the interviewer’s firsthand observations if necessary. However, the cost per interviewer is high, and the level of preparation and monitoring necessary adds to the expense.
Telephone interviews allow many individuals to be contacted rapidly over a large geographical region. As a result, it is often utilized in industrial marketing research. Its disadvantages include that it can only conduct brief, impersonal interviews. Answers may be typed directly into a computer for analysis, saving even more money.
Postal surveys are quite inexpensive. However, the response rate (the percentage of persons who return correctly completed surveys) is often relatively low, introducing bias.
Other Survey Techniques
Variations of the following surveying methods have proven useful for certain reasons.
The panel technique is often utilized when ongoing research is necessary. The difference between this and an ad hoc inquiry is that the same group (or panel) of informants is employed to offer a sequence of replies throughout time. This layout is very useful when it comes to establishing trends. Disadvantages include the difficulty of maintaining a representative panel over time; panel members may become self-conscious, and the information they supply is no longer a spontaneous reflection of their own ideas. Panels are often utilized in listener/viewer research, and the retail store audit panel is a well-known source of information.
A small (usually eight) and a carefully chosen group of individuals are together to discuss a certain issue. The interviewer does not generally ask particular questions but merely intervenes to ensure that the conversation continues on topic and that all key issues are covered. Interviewers (or, more accurately, discussion leaders) are typically experienced psychologists since interpreting findings might be tricky.
Discussion groups are not appropriately representative, and statistical analysis is usually difficult. They do, however, have the benefit of (a) being very affordable, and (b) the dynamic group environment may bring out facts that would not have been anticipated by someone designing a questionnaire. The approach is especially useful for gathering information quickly and cheaply, such as as a guide for copywriters and product development teams or as a tool for developing questions for pilot surveys.
This was popular a few years ago but is now much less so. It employs clinical psychology procedures to ascertain the motivations for behaviour and attitudes. Word association, ink-blot tests, and sentence completion tests are among the techniques used.
While such methodologies may provide significant insight into human attitudes in principle, their validity has been questioned in reality. Because interviews must be performed individually and might span many hours, doing such examinations fully is quite costly for highly skilled people.