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The European Society For Opinion and Marketing Research identify market research as the systematic and objective identification, collection, analysis, and dissemination of information for improving decision-marketing related to the identification and solution of problems and opportunities in marketing.(Malhotra. N and Birks. D 2000)
In the book marketing research an integrated approach, Alan Wilson also point out marketing research is about to provide information which should focus on customers, markets and competitors. That information will be used for making marketing decisions. Those information should be collected by wide range of sources and techniques, and then analysis, developed and applied. Marketing research also involves communication and dissemination, which will affect the decision makers and interested parties.
Marketing research process
There are seven steps in marketing research process: define the research problem, determine the research design, choose the method for collecting primary data, design the sample, collect the data, analyze and interpret the data, prepare the research report. Though those steps, marketers will make conversant decisions or reduce the risk of their decisions.
Define the research problem
In this step, the target of marketing research should be clarified. Research problem definition involves expressing the general problem and discovering the detail constituent of the general problem. Alan Wilson mentioned six issues must be considered in this step, the market environment, competitors’ reaction, organization’s own plan, the effectiveness of company’s previous marketing activities, the nature of new products and customer behavior.
Define the research problem has been considered as the most important step in a marketing research project. Research can only be designed and carried out if the research problem has been clarified. Joselyn considered nothing is more important to satisfy customers’ requests than identify the correct research problem. All the following steps of marketing research process would be wastes if the beginning of the research, define the research problem, is misapprehended. A good metaphor of identify the research problem is compared to doctors give patients medicine and treatment. Illness can only be cured when right medicine has been given, wrong medicine sometimes is even more dangerous than the illness, and the most important thing for a doctor is to identify the illness. That is the same situation as marketing research process.
Define the research problem also can be seen as a communication between decision makers and marketing researchers. Researchers offer research supports as the decision makers require.
Determine the research design
After the problem has been clarified by marketers, to design the research is the next step of the whole research process. A research process is a blueprint for managing a marketing research process. It provides details of information for figuring out the research problem. There are two general research design categories, secondary research and primary research.
Secondary research is collecting secondary data which is some information collected before for some other problems, not directly for the current research problem. There are two ways to collect secondary data, internal data and external data. Internal data is information inside organization, which collect from sales report, consumer information. External data is the information’s resource from outside company; the resource could from public newspaper or other organization’s report.
Secondary research is widely used in marketing research process, the main reason of that is secondary data is easily collected and also the low cost of the research process. Malhotra mentioned in his book there also seven advantages that secondary data can help marketers. First it can help marketers to identify the research problem. Second, it can develop an access to the problem. Third, it also helps marketers to create a sampling plan. Fourth, it will explicate a suitable research design. Fifth, research questions can be answered by using secondary data. Sixth, primary data will be interpreted by secondary data with more penetration. Last, it can improve qualitative research results.
The disadvantages of secondary research are also very obvious. Too many data have been collect during research; most of them are not even related to the research problem, so it will take marketers a lot of time to select and analysis these data.
Primary research is using observation, qualitative or quantitative research to collect primary data. Primary data is defined as a kind of data originated by the researcher specifically to address the research problem. Three methods mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph are quite different from each other.
Observation research collects data without any questions been asked to research targets. Researchers become the witness of target’s behavior, such as children’s behavior with a new toy, or TV viewing patterns. The observation research can be divided into several categories, 1, natural versus contrived observation. 2, visible versus hidden observation. 3, Structured versus unstructured observation. 4, mechanized versus human observation. 5, participant versus non-participant.
Qualitative research is a less structured research process, which involves small samples of individuals. The purpose of qualitative research is to understand targets, not to measure them. Malhotra considered qualitative research is based on at least two intellectual traditions. One of them is building up ideas and combining methods from psychology. The other is the set of idea and associated methods from sociology and anthropology. Both of these two traditions are related to the development of communication between researchers and those been researched. Researchers chose qualitative research for four reasons. First, in some research, questions are involved privacy or negative feeling that the research target unwilling to give answers to them. Qualitative research question are not full structured questionnaires, by giving these kind of questions can avoid the issues that people don’t want to be asked. Second, subconscious feelings have huge affect on responders’ answers. Such as emotion, motivation or ego, these could always drive the thoughts, when responders try to answer the questions. Third, complex phenomena. With full structured questions, respondents sometimes have difficulties to find out the main propose of those questions, or they could just describe the situations but can explain the reasons to them. Last reason to use qualitative research is the holistic dimension. For example, a restaurant is doing a research about the satisfaction when customers having meal in the restaurant. The atmosphere that the consumers feel is the key issue to the research. And atmosphere can involve the music in the restaurant, the style of the furniture, other customers, serves been provided. One question can’t cover all these points, but with small individual questions each part of the atmosphere can be asked, by join all these qualitative questions, the holistic view is build up.
Alan Wilson described several types of research most suited to qualitative research in his book. Qualitative research is commonly used in three areas: exploratory research, new product development and creative development research.
Exploratory research always been used when a company decide to improve the understanding of consumer behaviors, emotions, attitudes and preference. For instance, more than one characteristic that the researchers would like to understand though the exploratory, they are: consumer perceptions of a product field, identifying service or product improvements, the decision making process, dimensions that differentiate brands, product usage patterns and behavior and customer segments. Using qualitative research in exploratory research will help the organization with object or information defines.
New product development
In the new product development stage, qualitative research is also quite useful. It is effective to use qualitative research to find out the reaction of customers about the new product concepts and designs. In the stage of developing the concept into a communicable form, it is the time to use qualitative research to determine if the concept is developable, or guide the designers to improve the concept. Later stage of product development can also use qualitative research, such as stage of design the paradigm of new product, or their packaging. Using qualitative research can help researchers build up confidence that the new product is developing though the right way.
Creative development research
Qualitative research is very important in creative development research; it can assist in creating execution of advertising and promotion. Advertising agency uses qualitative research to know the relationship between customers and products or brands. As same as advertising, in an organization’s promotion plan, qualitative research can help the organization to achieve the communication objectives. Not only promotion but also the integrated marketing communication plan (IMC plan), which contents promotion and four other steps. Feedbacks, which could test the effectiveness of the IMC plan, are received though qualitative research.
Quantitative research is a full structured research approach, which involves large sample of individuals. The purpose of quantitative research is to measure the widespread of same attitudes and behaviors.
Choose the method for collecting primary data
In this step marketers will choose their method to collect primary data. All the methods can be divided into two kinds, survey method and observation method.
Survey method always involves three things, question, interviewer and respondent. The survey method can be divided into four categories by how does the questions been asked by the interviewers to the respondent.
In postal survey, selected responders will receive a mail with questionnaires, covering letter return envelope inside. Although the postal survey is a very important survey method and has been used for long time, the response rates are not high; it is between 20% to 50%. There are some advantages and disadvantages been list out by peter chisnall
Nation and international coverage
No interviewer bias
Good for ongoing research
Low response rate
Long respond time
Unclear of who is responding
The majority of telephone surveys are taken for customer-type research and business to business. All interviewers stay in a same place call centre location, all the calls are made though the phones in centre location, this makes the interviewers been easily controlled. Fast and low cost are the other main advantages of this survey method. On the other hand, the disadvantages also very obvious, for example, short interview time can make a lot of misunderstandings to the question, sometimes customers do not answer the call, and consumers who do not have a phone can’t be interviewed. These days more and more marketers pretend doing telephone survey but in fact trying to sell their products to the responders. This situation makes customers more unwilling to pick up phones to do telephone surveys.
Face to face interviews
There are three types of face to face interviews, in-home or doorstep, executive and street. They all share same advantages, such as; it is easier for interviewers to motivate respondents to complete the survey; long questions can only be used through this kind of survey; interview can easily tell if the responders have difficulties in understanding of the question; the interviewer can use different materials to help with the survey. To the opposite side, the major disadvantages are the high cost that the interview could take and the interviewer bias a problem.
This is a new kind of survey method compare to the three methods analysis above. The keep increasing number of internet users makes online survey more and more popular. Like the telephone survey, the online survey also very fast and lost low. It is not like face to face interview because there is no interview bias but also different materials can be used during the survey.
Observation method is quite different from survey method. It does not communicate with the people; interviewers only have to record the respondents’ reaction, behavior and attitude. It could happen in a natural or contrived environment. Compare observation method to survey method, the major advantage is; there are no reporting bias and potential bias in observation method. And the main disadvantage of observation is, it is only useful to measure or record behavior and attitude.
Design the sample
Sample is a subgroup of the elements of the population selected for participation in the study (Malhotra, N. 1999). Design a sample in fact is a process of answering five questions:
What type of people is going to do this study?
Where those people are coming from?
How to select these people?
How many people are here in the study?
How to represent the information collected from the study?
By answering the five questions, the sample design process can be divided into six steps:
Define the population
Determine the sampling frame
Select sampling techniques
Determine the sample size
Execute the sampling process
Validate the sample
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