Marketing research is a systematic and objective study of problems pertaining to the marketing of goods and services. It is applicable to any area of marketing. Research is the only tool an organization has to keep in contact with its external operating environment. In order to be proactive and change with the environment simple questions need to be asked:
- What are the customer needs and how are they changing? How to meet these changing needs? What do the customers think about existing products or services? What more are they looking at?
- What are the competitors doing to retain customers in this environment? Are their strategies exceeding or influencing yours? What should you do to be more competitive?
- How are macro and micro environmental factors influencing your organisation? How will you react t this environment?
Methodologically, marketing research uses four types of research designs, namely:
- Qualitative marketing research – This is generally used for exploratory purposes. The data collected is qualitative and focuses on people’s opinions and attitudes towards a product or service. The respondents are generally few in number and the findings cannot be generalised tot eh whole population. No statistical methods are generally applied. Ex: Focus groups, In-depth interviews, and Projective techniques
- Quantitative marketing research – This is generally used to draw conclusions for a specific problem. It tests a specific hypothesis and uses random sampling techniques so as to infer from the sample to the population. It involves a large number of respondents and analysis is carried out using statistical techniques. Ex: Surveys and Questionnaires
- Observational techniques – The researcher observes social phenomena in their natural setting and draws conclusion from the same. The observations can occur cross-sectionally (observations made at one time) or longitudinally (observations occur over several time-periods). Ex: Product-use analysis and computer cookie tracing
- Experimental techniques – Here, the researcher creates a quasiartificial environment to try to control spurious factors, then manipulates at least one of the variables to get an answer to a research. Ex: Test marketing and Purchase laboratories
More than one research designs could be used at a time. They may start with secondary research to get background information, then conduct a focus group (qualitative research design) to explore the issues. Finally they might do a full nation-wide survey (quantitative research design) in order to devise specific recommendations for the client organisation.
Recommended reading: Marketing research and it’s process