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Steps Involved in Marketing Research Process (with diagram)

Step 1: Define the Problem (or Opportunity)

❶They give biased or dishonest answers.

10.2 Steps in the Marketing Research Process




Watch the video to see a funny spoof on the usefulness—or lack of usefulness—of focus groups. Anything that can be observed and counted falls into the category of descriptive research design. A study using a descriptive research design involves gathering hard numbers, often via surveys, to describe or measure a phenomenon so as to answer the questions of who , what , where , when , and how. Physiological measurements also fall into the category of descriptive design.

Elsewhere, we explained that researchers have gone so far as to scan the brains of consumers to see what they really think about products versus what they say about them.

Eye tracking is another cutting-edge type of physiological measurement. The Walt Disney Company has a research facility in Austin, Texas, that it uses to take physical measurements of viewers when they see Disney programs and advertisements. The facility measures three types of responses: A woman shows off her headgear for an eye-tracking study. A strictly descriptive research design instrument—a survey, for example—can tell you how satisfied your customers are.

Causal research design examines cause-and-effect relationships. The one variable is changed, and the effect is then measured. Sometimes the experiments are conducted in a laboratory using a simulated setting designed to replicate the conditions buyers would experience.

Or the experiments may be conducted in a virtual computer setting. You might think setting up an experiment in a virtual world such as the online game Second Life would be a viable way to conduct controlled marketing research. Some companies have tried to use Second Life for this purpose, but the results have been somewhat mixed as to whether or not it is a good medium for marketing research.

However, with so many other attractive fantasy islands in which to play, the company found it difficult to get Second Life residents, or players, to voluntarily visit the island and stay long enough so meaningful research could be conducted. When the German firm Komjuniti created an island in Second Life to conduct marketing research, the residents showed up waving signs and threatening to boycott the island.

Why is being able to control the setting so important? In the days afterward, sales skyrocketed—people bought flags no matter where they were displayed. An experiment conducted in a natural setting such as a store is referred to as a field experiment. The place the experiment is conducted or the demographic group of people the experiment is administered to is considered the test market. Before a large company rolls out a product to the entire marketplace, it will often place the offering in a test market to see how well it will be received.

Coming soon to a test market near you? Many companies use experiments to test all of their marketing communications. For example, the online discount retailer O. One study the company conducted combined twenty-six different variables related to offers e-mailed to several thousand customers. The study resulted in a decision to send a group of e-mails to different segments. The company then tracked the results of the sales generated to see if they were in line with the earlier experiment it had conducted that led it to make the offer.

Otherwise, the data collected will not be comparable. The same is true when it comes to surveying people with questionnaires. Surveying people is one of the most commonly used techniques to collect quantitative data. Surveys are popular because they can be easily administered to large numbers of people fairly quickly.

However, to produce the best results, the questionnaire for the survey needs to be carefully designed. Most questionnaires follow a similar format: They begin with an introduction describing what the study is for, followed by instructions for completing the questionnaire and, if necessary, returning it to the market researcher.

The warm-up questions are then followed by a logical progression of more detailed, in-depth questions that get to the heart of the question being researched. Lastly, the questionnaire wraps up with a statement that thanks the respondent for participating in the survey and information and explains when and how they will be paid for participating.

To see some examples of questionnaires and how they are laid out, click on the following link: How the questions themselves are worded is extremely important. Therefore, there is always a hazard that people will try to tell you what you want to hear on a survey.

Consequently, care needs to be taken that the survey questions are written in an unbiased, neutral way. The following is an example of a leading question. The questions also need to be clear and unambiguous.

Consider the following question:. Which brand of toothpaste do you use? The question sounds clear enough, but is it really?

What if the respondent recently switched brands? How will the respondent answer the question? Which brand of toothpaste have you used at home in the past six months? If you have used more than one brand, please list each of them 1. Sensitive questions have to be asked carefully. Few people want to admit to being heavy drinkers. How many alcoholic beverages do you consume in a week? Asking them to specify income ranges rather than divulge their actual incomes can help.

Open-ended questions , or questions that ask respondents to elaborate, can be included. Multiple-choice and yes-and-no questions are examples of closed-ended questions. Is there enough space for people to elaborate on open-ended questions? Is the font readable? To test the questionnaire, marketing research professionals first administer it to a number of respondents face to face. Getting people to participate and complete questionnaires can be difficult. Of course, including some sort of monetary incentive for completing the survey can increase the number of completed questionnaires a market researcher will receive.

Once you have created your questionnaire or other marketing study, how do you figure out who should participate in it? Instead, you must choose a sample. A sample is a subset of potential buyers that are representative of your entire target market, or population being studied. Sometimes market researchers refer to the population as the universe to reflect the fact that it includes the entire target market, whether it consists of a million people, a hundred thousand, a few hundred, or a dozen.

Obviously, the population has to be defined correctly. Otherwise, you will be studying the wrong group of people. Not defining the population correctly can result in flawed research, or sampling error. A sampling error is any type of marketing research mistake that results because a sample was utilized.

On average, Internet survey takers tend to be more educated and tech savvy. Consequently, if they solely constitute your population, even if you screen them for certain criteria, the data you collect could end up being skewed. The next step is to put together the sampling frame , which is the list from which the sample is drawn. The sampling frame can be put together using a directory, customer list, or membership roster Wrenn et. Other people who should be included will be inadvertently omitted.

As a result, a certain degree of sampling error always occurs. There are two main categories of samples in terms of how they are drawn: A probability sample is one in which each would-be participant has a known and equal chance of being selected.

The chance is known because the total number of people in the sampling frame is known. For example, if every other person from the sampling frame were chosen, each person would have a 50 percent chance of being selected.

A convenience sample is one type of nonprobability sample. Surveying people on the street as they pass by is an example of a convenience sample. The question is, are these people representative of the target market?

For example, suppose a grocery store needed to quickly conduct some research on shoppers to get ready for an upcoming promotion. Now suppose that the researcher assigned to the project showed up between the hours of 10 a. What about commuters who stop at the store before and after work? Neither would people who work the night shift or shop at odd hours. As a result, there would be a lot of room for sampling error in this study.

Nonprobability samples are more often used in exploratory research. Lastly, the size of the sample has an effect on the amount of sampling error. Larger samples generally produce more accurate results.

However, the more people surveyed or studied, the more costly the research becomes. If you take a marketing research or statistics class, you will learn more about how to determine the optimal size. Of course, if you hire a marketing research company, much of this work will be taken care of for you. Many marketing research companies, like ResearchNow, maintain panels of prescreened people they draw upon for samples.

In addition, the marketing research firm will be responsible for collecting the data or contracting with a company that specializes in data collection. Data collection is discussed next. As we have explained, primary marketing research data can be gathered in a number of ways. Surveys, taking physical measurements, and observing people are just three of the ways we discussed.

For example, if a customer shopping for feminine hygiene products in a supermarket aisle realizes she is being watched, she could become embarrassed and leave the aisle, which would adversely affect your data. To get around problems such as these, some companies set up cameras or two-way mirrors to observe customers.

Organizations also hire mystery shoppers to work around the problem. Survey data can be collected in many different ways and combinations of ways. The following are the basic methods used:. A face-to-face survey is, of course, administered by a person.

And Census Bureau workers personally survey the homeless to collect information about their numbers. Face-to-face surveys are also commonly used in third world countries to collect information from people who cannot read or lack phones and computers. A plus of face-to-face surveys is that they allow researchers to ask lengthier, more complex questions because the people being surveyed can see and read the questionnaires.

The same is true when a computer is utilized. For example, the researcher might ask the respondent to look at a list of ten retail stores and rank the stores from best to worst. The question would have to be rewritten. Probably the biggest drawback of both surveys conducted face-to-face and administered over the phone by a person is that they are labor intensive and therefore costly. Mailing out questionnaires is costly, too, and the response rates can be rather low.

Think about why that might be so: By contrast, gathering survey data collected by a computer, either over the telephone or on the Internet, can be very cost-effective and in some cases free. SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang are two Web sites that will allow you to create online questionnaires, e-mail them to up to one hundred people for free, and view the responses in real time as they come in.

For larger surveys, you have to pay a subscription price of a few hundred dollars. But that still can be extremely cost-effective. To see how easy it is to put together a survey in SurveyMonkey, click on the following link: Like a face-to-face survey, an Internet survey can enable you to show buyers different visuals such as ads, pictures, and videos of products and their packaging.

Web surveys are also fast, which is a major plus. Whereas face-to-face and mailed surveys often take weeks to collect, you can conduct a Web survey in a matter of days or even hours. And, of course, because the information is electronically gathered it can be automatically tabulated. You can also potentially reach a broader geographic group than you could if you had to personally interview people.

The Zoomerang Web site allows you to create surveys in forty different languages. Another plus for Web and computer surveys and electronic phone surveys is that there is less room for human error because the surveys are administered electronically.

Respondents are also likely to feel more comfortable inputting the information into a computer if a question is sensitive than they would divulging the information to another person face-to-face or over the phone. However, like mail surveys, surveys sent to people over the Internet are easy to ignore.

Lastly, before the data collection process begins, the surveyors and observers need to be trained to look for the same things, ask questions the same way, and so forth. As an analogy, you have probably had some teachers grade your college papers harder than others. The goal of training is to avoid a wide disparity between how different observers and interviewers record the data.

Training people so they know what constitutes different ratings when they are collecting data will improve the quality of the information gathered in a marketing research study. Does it depend on how much time the person spends in the store or in the individual aisles?

How fast they walk? In other words, the criteria and ratings need to be spelled out. Gathering marketing research data in foreign countries poses special challenges. Marketing research companies are located all across the globe, in fact. Eight of the ten largest marketing research companies in the world are headquartered in the United States. However, five of these eight firms earn more of their revenues abroad than they do in the United States.

Coke is an example. To be sure, the United States is still a huge market when it comes to the revenues marketing research firms generate by conducting research in the country: Still, emerging countries with growing middle classes, such as China, India, and Brazil, are hot new markets companies want to tap. What kind of challenges do firms face when trying to conduct marketing research abroad? As we explained, face-to-face surveys are commonly used in third world countries to collect information from people who cannot read or lack phones and computers.

However, face-to-face surveys are also common in Europe, despite the fact that phones and computers are readily available. In-home surveys are also common in parts of Europe. In many Muslim countries, women are forbidden to talk to strangers. And how do you figure out whom to research in foreign countries? That in itself is a problem.

In the United States, researchers often ask if they can talk to the heads of households to conduct marketing research. Translating surveys is also an issue. Have you ever watched the TV comedians Jay Leno and David Letterman make fun of the English translations found on ethnic menus and products? Research tools such as surveys can suffer from the same problem. One way companies try to deal with translation problems is by using back translation. When back translation is used, a native speaker translates the survey into the foreign language and then translates it back again to the original language to determine if there were gaps in meaning—that is, if anything was lost in translation.

If the research involves any visual images, they, too, could be a point of confusion. Certain colors, shapes, and symbols can have negative connotations in other countries. For example, the color white represents purity in many Western cultures, but in China, it is the color of death and mourning Zouhali-Worrall, Also, look back at the cartoon-completion exercise in Figure One way marketing research companies are dealing with the complexities of global research is by merging with or acquiring marketing research companies abroad.

The Nielsen Company is the largest marketing research company in the world. The firm operates in more than a hundred countries and employs more than forty thousand people. Many of its expansions have been the result of acquisitions and mergers.

Or respondents might have already entered the information directly into a computer. Companies are also beginning to experiment with software that can be used to collect data using mobile phones. Once all the data is collected, the researchers begin the data cleaning , which is the process of removing data that have accidentally been duplicated entered twice into the computer or correcting data that have obviously been recorded wrong. A program such as Microsoft Excel or a statistical program such as Predictive Analytics Software PASW, which was formerly known as SPSS is then used to tabulate, or calculate, the basic results of the research, such as the total number of participants and how collectively they answered various questions.

The programs can also be used to calculate averages, such as the average age of respondents, their average satisfaction, and so forth. The same can done for percentages, and other values you learned about, or will learn about, in a statistics course, such as the standard deviation, mean, and median for each question.

The information generated by the programs can be used to draw conclusions, such as what all customers might like or not like about an offering based on what the sample group liked or did not like. The information can also be used to spot differences among groups of people. For example, the research might show that people in one area of the country like the product better than people in another area.

Trends to predict what might happen in the future can also be spotted. As we have explained, qualitative information such as this can give you a fuller picture of the results of the research. Part of analyzing the data is to see if it seems sound.

Does the way in which the research was conducted seem sound? Was the sample size large enough? Are the conclusions that become apparent from it reasonable? The two most commonly used criteria used to test the soundness of a study are 1 validity and 2 reliability. A study is valid if it actually tested what it was designed to test. For example, did the experiment you ran in Second Life test what it was designed to test? Did it reflect what could really happen in the real world?

If you were to repeat the study, and get the same results or nearly the same results , the research is said to be reliable. The data collected, or at least some it, can also be compared to, or reconciled with, similar data from other sources either gathered by your firm or by another organization to see if the information seems on target.

If you end up becoming a marketing professional and conducting a research study after you graduate, hopefully you will do a great job putting the study together. You will have defined the problem correctly, chosen the right sample, collected the data accurately, analyzed it, and your findings will be sound.

At that point, you will be required to write the research report and perhaps present it to an audience of decision makers. You will do so via a written report and, in some cases, a slide or PowerPoint presentation based on your written report. The six basic elements of a research report are as follows. The methodology section of the report explains the technical details of how the research was designed and conducted.

The section explains, for example, how the data was collected and by whom, the size of the sample, how it was chosen, and whom or what it consisted of e.

It also includes information about the statistical techniques used to analyze the data. Every study has errors—sampling errors, interviewer errors, and so forth. The methodology section should explain these details, so decision makers can consider their overall impact.

The margin of error is the overall tendency of the study to be off kilter—that is, how far it could have gone wrong in either direction. Remember how newscasters present the presidential polls before an election?

The larger the margin of error is, the less likely the results of the study are accurate. The margin of error needs to be included in the methodology section. As we have said, these are the basic sections of a marketing research report. Exploratory Research — This form of research is used when the topic is not well defined or understood, your hypothesis is not well defined, and your knowledge of a topic is vague. Exploratory research will help you gain broad insights, narrow your focus, and learn the basics necessary to go deeper.

Common exploratory market research techniques include secondary research, focus groups and interviews. Exploratory research is a qualitative form of research. The goal of this form of market research is to measure specific topics of interest, usually in a quantitative way. Surveys are the most common research instrument for descriptive research. In this case, you are trying to determine a causal relationship between variables.

For example, does the music I play in my restaurant increase dessert sales i. You get the idea. This is the part of the process where you start executing your plan. By the way, step 3. Take your sample data and get it into a spreadsheet; are there any issues with the data structure? This will allow you to catch potential problems early, and there are always problems.

Collect Your Data This is the meat and potatoes of your project; the time when you are administering your survey, running your focus groups, conducting your interviews, implementing your field test, etc. The answers, choices, and observations are all being collected and recorded, usually in spreadsheet form. Each nugget of information is precious and will be part of the masterful conclusions you will soon draw.

Analyze Your Data Step 4 data collection has drawn to a close and you have heaps of raw data sitting in your lap. Start to formulate the story you will tell.


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Research is a multi-stage and often somewhat iterative process— conclusions from one stage can create new ideas for other stages in the process, and the linkages are both forwards and backwards.

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Marketing Research and Marketing Research Process With the same logic, Marketing Research (MR) rather briefly refers to all types of Research ac‐ tivities conducted in the field of marketing within the similar process.

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The market research process is a systematic methodology for informing business decisions. There are six basic steps, starting with defining the problem and understanding your research objective. Chapter Objectives 1. State the steps in the marketing research process and the importance of determining the research question 2. .

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Research is a multi-stage and often somewhat iterative process— conclusions from one stage can create new ideas for other stages in the process, and the linkages are both forwards and backwards. Also, stages can occur concurrently. Marketing research is a systematic process. The tasks in this process include designing meth-ods for collecting information, managing the information collection process, analysing and interpreting results and communicating findings to decision makers. This chapter provides an.