Marketing Research Procedure and Research Design

Marketing research is undertaken in order to improve the understanding of a marketing situation or problem and consequently improve the quality of decision-making related to it. 

The usefulness of the marketing research output will depend upon the way the research has been designed and implemented at each stage of the process.

There are five steps in every marketing research process:

  • Problem definition
  • Research design
  • Fieldwork
  • Data analysis
  • Report presentation and implementation.

Problem Definition

A problem is any situation that requires further investigation. However, not all marketing problems need further investigation or research. Many problems are of a routine and trivial nature which can be solved immediately after ascertaining all the facts of the case. 

For example, your distributor wants 90 days of credit against the usual 60 days because he is facing certain financial problems. You can immediately check the distributor’s past record in honoring his outstanding and ascertain the genuineness of his problem and make a decision.

Some problems faced by marketing managers are such that they can be handled on the basis of past experience and intuition. Such decisions can be made if the manager has been in the line for at least a couple of years. 

Decisions made on judgment may not always turn out to be correct, but the problem may not be important enough to justify substantial time, money and effort to be spent on solving it. But when the problem is critical, spending resources to initiate formal marketing research is warranted. 

Also, when the problem is such that the manager has no past experience to guide him (as in the case of a new product launch) or the decision will have a critical impact on the future of the company (diversification in new markets, new products), it is worthwhile to undertake research and make decisions on the basis of concrete results rather than mere hunch or judgment.

It is very important that you define the problem for research properly. It is correctly said that a problem well defined is half-solved. 

A clear, precise, to-the-point statement of the problem itself provides clues for the solution. On the other hand, a vague, general, or inaccurate statement of the problem only confuses the researcher and can lead to wrong problems being researched and useless results being generated.

Since problem definition is the first stage, useful information generated is likely to be unstructured, qualitative, tentative, and exploratory. Depending on the results generated at this stage, you would decide whether to extend the scope of research or stop it here.

Read Also: Definition and Purpose of Marketing Research

Research Design

If you have stated your problem correctly and precisely, you should be able to spell out the precise objectives for the research. Now you are in a position to prepare your research design.

The research design spells out how you are going to achieve the stated research objectives. 

The data collection methods, the specific research instrument and the sampling plan that you will use for collecting data, and the corresponding cost are the elements that constitute the research design.

Data Collection Method

A great deal of data is regularly collected and disseminated by international bodies such as the International Labour Organisation, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Government and its many agencies including Planning Commission, Central Statistical Organisation, Census Commission, private research organizations, and trade associations. 

This kind of data that has already been collected by another organization and not by you is known as secondary data. This secondary data already exists in an accessible form; it only has to be located. 

You must first check whether any secondary data is available on the subject matter in which you are researching and make use of it since it will save considerable time and money. But the data must be scrutinized properly since it was originally collected perhaps for another purpose. The data must also be checked for reliability, relevance, and accuracy.

When secondary data is not available or is not reliable, you would need to collect original data to suit your objectives. Original data collected specifically for current research are known as primary data. 

Primary data can be collected from customers, retailers, distributors, manufacturers, or other information sources. Primary data may be collected through any of the three methods: observation, survey, and experimentation.

In the observation method, the researcher gathers information by observing. This method is generally used to observe buyer behavior in a shop or to assess the impact of shelf placement and point of purchase promotional material. 

Read Also: The Sales Promotion Method and Why Rapid Growth?

For instance, you may like to observe the movement of shopping traffic through a department store, the number of shoppers who stopped before a particular display, etc.

The obvious limitation of the observation method is that it follows the observation of only overt behavior. It provides no clues why a customer behaved in a particular manner, what product attributes appealed most to him/her, whether he/she would like to buy the product again, etc. Such data can be generated by using the survey method. 

The survey method can also yield information about the socio-economic profile of our customers. The survey may either be conducted within a small group of customers through the focus group interview or may cover a large number of customers with the help of a questionnaire.

In the focus group interview, five to fifteen customers are invited for a discussion on a specific product or a specific aspect of the product. The customers’ comments provide valuable insight into their thinking which can help the manager to fine-tune his marketing strategy to suit different customer segments. 

Surveys conducted with the help of questionnaires often take off from the focus group interview which yields excellent clues for designing the questionnaire. The questionnaire-based surveys yield not only qualitative but also quantitative data which can have statistical validity. 

The third method of collecting data is through experimentation. This is basically a simulation of the real-life situation, but in a controlled environment in which you systematically introduce certain elements to study their impact. 

This method is used for finding the best sales- training technique, the best price level, or the most effective advertisement campaign. However, its use requires an extremely skilled researcher to ensure results. Also, this method is expensive.

Read Also: Sales Promotion Objectives and Methods

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