Marketing Research Process
To accurately arrive at a target market, businesses must research who their typical customer is. Read each section to learn about conducting marketing research. Try to summarize these lessons and write a brief reflection of how you would research if you were the owner of an upscale retail clothing store in a major metropolitan city with several competitors.
- Outline objectives and problems as part of the marketing research process
- Describe the formulation of research design within the context of the marketing research process
- Recognize the basis for developing a specific approach to the objective or problem to be solved through the marketing research process
- Construct the rationale of fieldwork or data collection from a marketing research process perspective
- Summarize the characteristics of data preparation and methodology of data analysis
- Identify the characteristics of preparing, presenting, and documenting the results of marketing research
- The marketing research process involves six steps: 1: problem definition, 2: develop an approach to the problem, 3: research design formulation, 4: data collection, 5: data preparation and analysis, and 6: report preparation and presentation.
- The first step in any marketing research study is to define the problem while taking into account the purpose of the study, the relevant background information, what information is needed, and how it will be used in decision making. This stage involves discussion with the decision-makers, interviews with industry experts, analysis of secondary data, and, perhaps, some qualitative research, such as focus groups.
- Marketers can employ three types of objectives their research: exploratory research, descriptive research, and causal research.
- The marketing process details the procedures to obtain this information. It aims to design a study that will test the hypotheses of interest, determine possible answers to the research questions, and provide the information needed for decision making.
- Researchers need to choose the type of data they want to obtain from the respondents, such as via a survey or experiment and design a questionnaire and sampling plan to choose the most appropriate respondents for their study.
- Research design involves secondary data analysis; qualitative research; quantitative data methods (survey, observation, and experimentation); information needed; measurement and scaling procedures; questionnaire design; sampling process and sample size; and a plan of data analysis.
- Data collection involves a field force or staff that operates in the field, as in the case of personal interviewing, from an office by telephone, or through the mail (traditional mail and mail panel surveys with pre-recruited households).
- Proper selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of the field force helps minimize data-collection errors. Data is carefully edited, coded, transcribed, and verified so it can be properly analyzed during this phase of the research process. Verification ensures that the data from the original questionnaires have been accurately transcribed, while data analysis gives meaning to the data that have been collected.
- Bias must be avoided when interpreting data because only the results (not personal opinion) should be communicated.
- The entire project should be documented in a written report that addresses the specific research questions identified; describes the approach, research design, data collection, and data analysis procedures adopted; and presents the results and the major findings.
- The findings should be presented in a comprehensible format so they can be readily used in the decision-making process. An oral presentation to management, using tables, charts, and graphs, will enhance clarity and impact.
- Business Intelligence – Information that pertains to the history, current status, or future projections of a business organization.
- Data – Values of qualitative or quantitative variables belonging to a set of items; Data are typically the results of measurements and can be visualized using graphs or images
- Data Mining – A technique for searching large-scale databases for patterns; used mainly to find previously unknown correlations between variables that may be commercially useful.
- Ethnographic research – Information regarding cultural phenomena.
- Executive Summary – A short section or document that summarizes a longer report or proposal so readers can quickly learn about a larger work without having to read it in its entirety.
- Mall Intercept – A survey where respondents are intercepted in shopping malls to administer a survey on the spot or invite them to a research facility to conduct the interview.
- Market Research – The systematic collection and evaluation of data regarding customers' preferences for actual and potential products and services.
- Marketing Research – A research process that links the consumers, customers, and public to the marketer through information. This information is used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process.
- Objective – Not influenced by irrational emotions or prejudices.
- Qualitative Research – A method of inquiry employed in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences but also in market research and further contexts.
- Scientific Method – A body of techniques for acquiring new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.
- Secondary Data – Information collected by someone other than the user of the data.
- Secondary Research – A research process that Involves the summary, collation, and synthesis of existing research rather than primary research, where data is collected from subjects or experiments.
- Survey Research – A research process that obtains information from a predetermined set of questions given to a sample, used to assess thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
- Systematic – Carried out using a planned, ordered procedure.
Marketing Research Is Systematic and Objective:
- Systematic planning is required at all stages of the marketing research process. The procedures followed at each stage are methodologically sound, well documented, and, as much as possible, planned in advance. Marketing research uses the scientific method in that data are collected and analyzed to test prior notions or hypotheses.
- Marketing research aims to provide accurate information that reflects a true state of affairs and, thus, should be conducted impartially. While research is always influenced by the researcher's research philosophy, it should be free from the personal or political biases of the researcher or the management.
Overview of the Marketing Research Process:
- Step 1: Problem Definition
- Step 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem
- Step 3: Research Design Formulation
- Step 4: Field Work or Data Collection
- Step 5: Data Preparation and Analysis
- Step 6: Report Preparation and Presentation
Step 1: Problem Definition
Define the problem and research objectives. The first step in any marketing research study is to define the problem while taking into account the purpose of the study, the relevant background information, what information is needed, and how it will be used in decision making. This stage involves discussion with the decision-makers, interviews with industry experts, analysis of secondary data, and, perhaps, some qualitative research, such as focus groups. There are three types of objectives that can be deployed in marketing research:
The first stage of the marketing research process involves defining the problem.
1. Exploratory research
- Used to better define a problem or scout opportunities.
- In-depth interviews and discussion groups are commonly used.
2. Descriptive research
- Used to assess a situation in the marketplace (that is, the potential for a specific product or consumer attitudes).
- Methods include personal interviews and surveys.
3. Causal research
- Used for testing cause and effect relationships.
- Typically through estimation.
Step 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem
Step two includes formulating an objective or theoretical framework, analytical models, research questions, hypotheses, and identifying characteristics or factors that can influence the research design. This process is guided by discussions with management and industry experts, case studies and simulations, analysis of secondary data, qualitative research, and pragmatic considerations.
Planning involves the creation and maintenance of a plan.
Step 3: Research Design Formulation
A research design is a framework or blueprint for conducting the marketing research project. It details the procedures necessary for obtaining the required information, and its purpose is to design a study that will test the hypotheses of interest, determine possible answers to the research questions, and provide the information needed for decision making. Decisions are also made regarding what data should be obtained from the respondents (such as by conducting a survey or an experiment). A questionnaire and sampling plan also are designed in order to select the most appropriate respondents for the study. The following steps are involved in formulating a research design:
- Secondary data analysis (based on secondary research)
- Qualitative research
- Methods of collecting quantitative data (survey, observation, and experimentation)
- Definition of the information needed
- Measurement and scaling procedures
- Questionnaire design
- Sampling process and sample size
- Plan of data analysis
Secondary data analysis is one of the steps involved in formulating a Research Design
Developing the research plan for collecting information:
The research plan outlines sources of existing data and spells out the specific research approaches, contact methods, sampling plans, and instruments that researchers will use to gather data. This plan includes a written proposal that outlines the management problem, research objectives, information required, how the results will help management decisions, and the budget allocated for the research.
Step 4: Fieldwork or Data Collection
Fieldwork, or data collection, involves a field force or staff that operates either in the field, as in the case of personal interviewing (focus group, in-home, mall intercept, or computer-assisted personal interviewing), from an office by telephone (telephone or computer-assisted telephone interviewing/CATI), or through the mail (traditional mail and mail panel surveys with pre-recruited households). Proper selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of the field force helps minimize data-collection errors. In marketing research, an example of data collection is when a consumer goods company hires a market research company to conduct in-home ethnographies and in-store shop-alongs in an effort to collect primary research data.
Soldiers and family members participated in USAG-RC-sponsored focus groups
Marketing Research is Systematic and Objective
- Systematic planning is required at all stages of the marketing research process, especially in the data collection step. The procedures followed at each stage are methodologically sound, well documented, and, as much as possible, planned in advance. Marketing research uses the scientific method in that data are collected and analyzed to test prior notions or hypotheses.
- Marketing research aims to provide accurate information that reflects a true state of affairs and thus, should be conducted impartially. While research is always influenced by the researcher's philosophy, it should be free from the personal or political biases of the researcher or the management. This is especially important in the data collection phase. The data collected will be analyzed and used to make marketing decisions. Hence, it is vital that the data collection process be free of as much bias as possible.
Primary Versus Secondary Research
There are many sources of information a marketer can use when collecting data. The Nielson Ratings is an audience measurement system that provides data on audience size and the composition of television markets in the United States. The Gallup Polls conduct public opinion polls with its results published daily in the form of data-driven news. The U.S Census Bureau, directed by the U.S. Government is the principal agency that is responsible for producing data about American people and the economy. Population, housing, and demographic characteristics are gathered to help plan and define transportation systems, police and fire precinct, election districts, and schools.
Step 5: Data Preparation and Analysis
Analysis of data is a process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of highlighting useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision making. Data analysis has multiple facets and approaches, encompassing diverse techniques under a variety of names in different business, science, and social science domains. Data mining is a particular data analysis technique that focuses on modeling and knowledge discovery for predictive rather than purely descriptive purposes. Marketers use databases to extract applicable information that identifies customer patterns, characteristics, and behaviors.
Notes on data analysis process and testing parameters.
Business intelligence covers data analysis that relies heavily on aggregation and focusing on business information. In statistical applications, some people divide data analysis into descriptive statistics, exploratory data analysis (EDA), and confirmatory data analysis (CDA). EDA focuses on discovering new features in the data and CDA focuses on confirming or falsifying existing hypotheses. Predictive analytics focuses on the application of statistical or structural models for predictive forecasting or classification. Text analytics applies statistical, linguistic, and structural techniques to extract and classify information from textual sources, a species of unstructured data. All are varieties of data analysis.
During this phase of the research process, data is carefully edited, coded, transcribed, and verified in order for it to be properly analyzed. Statistical market research tools are used. The validity of the results is also assessed to confirm how well the data measures what it is supposed to measure. Oftentimes, the research team will arrange a debriefing session with the client to review highlights from the data and brainstorm potential ideas on how the findings can be implemented. This typically happens when a client hires a market research company and they want to remain thoroughly involved in the research process.
Researchers can set up a debriefing meeting to review the analysis
Types of data analysis outputs: heat map, bar plots, scatter plots.
Helpful tips to keep in mind during data analysis:
- Communicate the results.
- Try to avoid bias when interpreting data.
- Just because results fail to confirm original hypotheses, does not mean the research results are useless.
Step 6: Report Preparation and Presentation
During the Report Preparation and Presentation step, the entire project should be documented in a written report that addresses the specific research questions identified; describes the approach, the research design, data collection, and data analysis procedures adopted; and presents the results and the major findings. This permanent document is also helpful because it can be easily referenced by others who may not have been part of the research.
The findings should be presented in a comprehensible format so that they can be readily used in the decision-making process. In addition, an oral presentation should be made to management using tables, figures, and graphs to enhance clarity and impact.
Someone giving a presentation using visual elements
A successful presentation will include but is not limited to the following elements:
- Final conclusions (based on the insights gathered from data collected) that effectively meet the initial objectives of the research
- Recommendations about how to apply the research
- Charts, graphs, and visual elements that help showcase important facts and make the presentation easily digestible and memorable
A formal research report presentation typically includes the following:
- Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Research Objectives
- Research Methodology
- Highlights of Fieldwork Data Collected
- Appendix (including Respondent Screening Instrument and Questionnaire)
- Recommendations/Implications and Action Plan
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