Marketing research is a key to the evolution of successful marketing strategies and programmes. It is an important tool to study buyer behavior, changes in consumer lifestyles and consumption patterns, brand loyalty and forecast market changes. Research is also used to study competition and analyze the competitor product’s positioning and how to gain competitive advantage. Recently, marketing research is being used to help create and enhance brand equity.
According to Philip Kotler, Marketing research is systematic problem analysis, model building and fact finding for the purposes of important decision making and control in the marketing of goods and services.
The marketing research process is a seven stage one. The various stages in this process are:
1. PROBLEM DEFINITION
This is the starting point in the marketing research exercise. Invariably, in any enterprise, there are several marketing issues that may require examination, and invariably every decision maker perceives his information need as being the most important. In problem definition it is important to be specific, avoiding ambiguities and generalities. Care should also be taken, not to define problems in too narrow a field as that may distract the researcher’s perspective. This may even affect creativity in the research.
2. RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
Once the problem is defined, the next logical step is to state what the researcher wants to achieve. This statement is called objectives. To be meaningful and help focus the researcher’s attention, these objectives should be specific, attainable & measurable. The purpose of these objectives is to act as a guide to the researcher and help him in maintaining a focus all through the research.
3. RESEARCH DESIGN
The third stage in the marketing research process is deciding on the research design. There are three types of research designs, namely:
(a) Exploratory: – This kind of research is conducted when the researcher does not know how & why a certain phenomenon occurs, for example, how does the consumer evaluate the quality of a bank or a hotel or an airline?
Since the prime goal of an exploratory research is to know the unknown, this research is unstructured. Focus groups, interviewing key customer groups, experts and even search for printed or published information are some common techniques.
(b) Descriptive: – This research is carried out to describe a phenomenon or market characteristics. For example, a study to understand buyer behavior & describe characteristics of the target market is a descriptive research.
Continuing the above example of service quality, a research done on how consumers evaluate the quality of competing service institutions can be considered as an example of descriptive research.
(c) Causative: – this kind of research is done to establish a cause and effect relationship, for example the influence of income & lifestyle on purchase decision. Here the researcher may like to see the effect of rising income & changing lifestyle on consumption of select products.
4. SOURCES OF DATA
Once the research design has been decided upon, the next stage is that of selecting the sources of data. Essentially there are two sources of data or information- secondary & primary
- Secondary data: This refers to the information that has been collected earlier by someone else. Often this includes printed or published reports, news items, industry or trade statistics etc. this also includes internal documents like invoices, sales reports, payment history of customers etc. these are important to the researcher as they provide an insight to the problem. Often the preliminary investigation is restricted to secondary data.
- Primary data: To overcome the limitations of incompatibility, obsolescence and bias, the researcher turns to the primary data. This is also resorted to when the secondary data is incomplete. Primary sources refer to data collected directly from the market place- customers, traders & suppliers often are the major sources. They are often reliable data sources and help in overcoming limitations of secondary data. The problem in primary data is its cost, both In terms of money & time, and often a researcher bias also creeps in.
5. DATA COLLECTION
The researcher is now ready to take the plunge. But still he or she needs to be clear about the following.
Procedure for data collection.
Data can be collected through any or combination of the following techniques.
- Observation: This technique involves observing how a customer behaves in the shopping area, how he or she dresses up & what does the customer say when he or she sees the product.
- Experimentation: This is a technique that involves experimenting new product ideas, advertising copies & campaigns, sales promotion ideas & even pricing & distribution strategies with the target customer group. These experiments can be conducted in an uncontrolled environment or in a controlled & simulated market environment.
Tools for data collection
The researcher has to decide on the appropriate tool for data collection. These tools are:-
- Questionnaire – used for the survey method
- Interview schedule – used mainly for exploratory research
- Association test – primarily used in qualitative research, also called as TAT (Thematic Apperception Test)
6. DATA ANALYSIS
The next stage is that of data analysis .It is important to understand raw data has no usage in marketing research .hence appropriate analytical tools must be used. The most elementary is the arithmetic analysis using percentile and ratios. Statistical analysis like mean, median, mode, percentages, standard deviation and coefficient of correlations should be used wherever applicable
7. REPORT & PRESENTATION
The last stage is that of writing out a report and making a presentation to the Decision –maker. It is important that the report has summary, called the executive summary, giving a bird’s-eye view of the research. This is because most senior managers have little time for going through the entire report in depth .The executive summary can direct the reader’s attention to specific issues by turning to the relevant sections in the report and should not exceed thousand words.
The report should be structured and pages chronologically numbered generally, the structure of a good repot is somewhat like the following:
- Introduction to the problem
- Marketing research finding or survey findings
- Interpretation of research finding
- Policy implications