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So, what is research? Well, as the word implies, it literally means to “search again” (re – search). This search is conducted on some specific topic, in a systematic manner. Thus, the research is done according to some specific process and is done so as to achieve some specific objective. This objective is known as the research objective or the research problem.
Research helps us in finding a path that will lead us to the solution of our problem. It should be noted here that business research does not, in itself, give us the solution to our problem. It, however, provides us enough information so as to arm us with the means to find a feasible solution to our problem.
In the above given case study, the role of business research is very clearly defined. Business research is undertaken with the specific objective of understanding the customers of Subaru. Subaru wishes to increase its market share in the market and it realizes that this can only be done by increasing the number of its customers or the number of people using the Subaru automobiles. However, as we all know, there are two basic rules in marketing. The first rule says that the customer is the boss – his wants and needs are of utmost importance as a customer will only buy a product if the said product is of some importance to him / her. And the product will only be important to him / her if it satisfies some want or need that will remain unsatisfied unless the customer buys the product.
The second rule is somewhat an extension of the first rule only. It says that the cost of retaining an old customer is less than the cost of making a new customer. This is because with an old customer, all a firm has to do is find out what improvements / innovations the customer would like made in the product or / and its features (price, packaging, colour, design, etc.) This is all it would take to satisfy an existing customer. This information can be easily obtained from an old customer with the help of feedback forms, interviews, etc.
However, the cost of generating or making a brand – new customer involves all the costs of introducing the product to the customer, that is, cost of advertising, marketing, promoting the product, etc. Additionally, there is the risk of not being aware of the needs and wants of the customer and thus, not being certain if the product that we are offering satisfies the needs and wants of the customer. This is where business research comes in and shows its importance in business to us.
It is with the help of business research that we are able to collect the required information about the tastes, needs and wants of new and old customers, the reasons for the dissatisfaction of the old customers, etc. Armed with this information, the company (Subaru in this case) can make the appropriate innovations in its products / product line and achieve its end goal of increasing its market share and customer base, simultaneously.
With the help of the above information, we can define the role of business research as providing us with the answers to the following questions:-
What is the best strategy to promote the sale of a particular product?
How many salespersons do I need?
What is the effect of a particular advertising campaign on the sales of this product?
What would be the appropriate marketing mix for this product?
How satisfied are the consumers with this product?
How much are consumers prepared to spend on this item?
What do consumers like or dislike about this product?
What type of packaging do consumers prefer for this product?
What type of training do the salespersons need to increase the sales of this product?
What are the attributes of a good salesperson?
What are the qualities inherent in the product that set it aside from the competitors’ product(s)?
How will the company go about acquiring the loyalty of the new and prospective (or potential) customers?
How will the company go about retaining the loyalty of its old customers?
How will the firm build brand loyalty for itself?
How will the company go about motivating its employees towards achieving higher sales?
Thus, from the above mentioned questions, we can see that business research plays a very important role in the healthy continuity of the life of a firm. If it were not for business research, it would be extremely difficult for any firm to answer the above questions and a firm proceeding to manufacture its products without first finding out the answers to these questions, would be synonymous to a company charging to accomplish its objective without having set a proper plan for itself. And a company without a plan trying to reach a goal is a task that is virtually impossible. Thus, business research helps a company in planning, organizing its resources and also in earning it profits by giving it an idea of the products that it has to manufacture so as to fulfill its objective of earning maximum profits.
Marketing research can play an important role in helping Subaru understand the devotion of consumers to its brand. It can help them understand the motivations, perceptions, and preferences of consumers in their market. It can also provide them with a profile of their loyal customers.
But before conducting the research, it is very important to identify the research problem. As we have already seen above, identification of research problem is the first step in conducting any research. But even before identifying the research problem, we must first understand the difference between management decision problem and the research problem.
Management decision problem is related to some confusion or ambiguity that the management faces in relation to the alternatives that it is presented with. Management decision problem may be a problem of inadequacy of resources or the infeasibility on one or more alternatives that the organization has to choose from. Management decision problem is basically general in nature. It refers to the inability of management of the firm to make a decision about something. Management usually uses some tools to help it solve such problems. One of these tools is business research.
Now, research problem is specific in nature. It takes one particular aspect of the management decision problem, examines it critically and gives some conclusions in regard to the same. For example, in the above given case, management decision problem is how Subaru can increase its brand loyalty, but the research problem is determining how customer loyalty is actually generated. A research problem identifies your destination for you and also tells the people who are reading the report on the research as to what you intend to do with the research. The main function of formulating a research problem is to decide what you want to find out about.
It is extremely important to evaluate the research problem in the light of the financial resources at your disposal, the time available and your own knowledge and expertise in the field of study.
Management Decision Problem:
What can Subaru do to improve customer loyalty?
Marketing Research Problem
To determine customer preferences for automobiles and discover what things create loyalty among these customers. More specifically:
What criteria do consumers use for evaluating automobiles?
How do consumers evaluate Subaru and competing brands on the identified criteria?
What is the demographic and psychographic profile of customers loyal to Subaru?
What characteristics differentiate Subaru loyalists from consumers loyal to other brands?
The Census 2011 data could be a valuable source of secondary data for Subaru. It could help them realize the size and demographics of the market; however, it would not give them specific information that would relate motivations, perceptions, and preferences to customer characteristics. This could be overcome through other available secondary data or through primary data collection.
. Syndicate marketing research firms could provide objective and highly detailed analyses of consumers’ car buying habits and relevant psychographic and lifestyle information. Specific car buying information is available from syndicated firms such as J. D. Power and Associates.
. Qualitative research would help Subaru define the problem and set up an approach to improving customer loyalty. Focus groups and depth interviews would be the most useful techniques.
. Since complex questions and a diversity of questions will probably be asked, personal interviews will be effect. Of the three personal methods, mall intercepts will be the most efficient in terms of cost and speed.
Subaru needs to address differences in the lifestyle/pastime (autobahn) and popular sports (soccer) in their marketing research. They also need to consider other socio-cultural factors such as environmental friendliness and research methodology in Germany. In addition, economical/infra-structural factors, marketing environment, government environment, legal environment, and information and technological environment should be considered as well.
With regard to the general public, ethical concerns revolve primarily around the methods of generating and reporting research results. It is the joint responsibility of the researcher and the client to ensure that the research findings are being disseminated accurately. In particular, care should be taken by both the market researcher and the client to avoid incomplete reporting, misleading reporting, and biased research.
It is the marketing researcher’s responsibility to protect the respondents from unethical research practices. Two issues deserve special attention: conducting a survey as a guise to sell products, and the invasion of the privacy of the respondent.
Given the complexity involved, it is not surprising that the ethical issues surrounding the researcher-client relationship are somewhat numerous. Areas that deserve special attention from an ethical standpoint are: abuse of position arising from specialized knowledge, unnecessary research, an unqualified researcher, disclosure of identity, treating data as non – confidential, and misleading presentation of data.
The researcher (or the research firm) has the right to be treated ethically as well. Ethical treatment by clients involves several issues: improper solicitation of proposals, disclosure of proprietary techniques, and misrepresentation of findings.
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