What is Marketing Research?
Marketing research is the scientific and systematic way of gathering, analyzing, and distributing non-routine marketing information that aids marketers to solve marketing problems. Through the controlled process, it addresses the marketing problems and analyzes every factor that has a positive or adverse effect on marketing activities.
Marketing research is one of the important components of a marketing information system (MKIS). It systematically and objectively search-analyzes information that is relevant to the identification and solution of marketing problems. It is conducted to solve a particular problem of the business firm.
It helps to gather a huge amount of marketing information. As every business firm requires various marketing information, it helps the firm to design effective marketing programs to realize firm’s goals and satisfy customers need and want as well.
It helps the business firms to find a target market, select the right product & service, set appropriate prices, set channels of distribution, select the appropriate promotion technique, etc. However, the main importance of the marketing research are:
- It helps to collect updated marketing information.
- Helps in problem-solving and decision-making.
- Gives a clear picture of environmental change.
- Helps in forecasting the data.
- Helps in adopting technological changes.
- Helps to understand the changing preference and taste of customers.
Now, marketing research is adopted by many organizations. Where some organizations use marketing research as a part of a regular information system and search for regular information from the market whereas some use it whenever a particular situation or problem is raised in the organization. However, these days importance of marketing research is increasing and adopted as a part of MKIS.
Essential Features of a Good Marketing Research
Marketing research should be systematic i.e. the research project should be well organized and planned. It should go through a step-by-step process.
The strategic and tactical aspects of research design must be detailed in advance, and the nature of the data to be gathered and the mode of analysis to be employed should be assumed.
Another important feature of marketing research is objectivity. It emphasizes the research should be unbiased. In a broader term, objectivity implies marketing research strives to be unbiased and unemotional in performing its responsibilities.
It involves the scientific method of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data. While you may have heard a scientist who violates the rule of objectivity, this is rare and often results in sanctions by the scientific community. It may operate in different settings from those of physical, medical, and social sciences, but shares its common standard of objectivity.
Marketing research should be informative i.e. it should give correct information. Without information no research is possible. So a marketing manager must be able to collect essential information from various sources. However, few questions may arise such as:
- Q: How much information is essential?
- A: The answer is simple i.e., adequate to draw conclusions such as to make the final decision.
- Q: What type of information need to be collected?
- A: The answer to this question depends upon the type and areas of marketing research. Research can be done in different areas such as product design, quality, size, advertising method, and design; sales promotion; marketing environment; market position; etc.
Marketing research should be based on a specified problem. It is so because research is conducted to solve the problem. Hence, if there is no problem, there will be no need for research. A problem is defined as an interrogative sentence or statement that asks what relation does exist in between the two or more specified variables. A variable can be defined as a quantity in which the researcher is interested that varies in the course of the research or that has different values for different samples in his study.
Everything changes sooner or later. But a variable is a factor whose change or difference the researcher makes a study. In order to find out the change or difference, he must have at least two variables – independent variable and dependent variable. An independent variable is a variable whose effect upon the dependent variable the researcher is trying to understand. While the dependent variable is the quantity of aspect of nature whose change or difference states the researcher wants to understand or explain or predict.
Marketing research should be as decisive in nature as the main goal of the research is decision making. On the basis of information collected, analyzed, and interpreted the manager must be able to make decisions. This decision should be helpful to solve the current problem of the company. Marketing research requires a good deal of expertise that can rightly analyze the information and draw the right conclusions regarding the existing problems. However, the final decision is made by the marketing manager since he is responsible for doing so.
Thus, good or ideal marketing research is one that possesses the elements mentioned above.
Marketing Research Process
The important steps in the process of marketing research are as follows. Any marketer or researcher or firm willing to do marketing research should follow the below five steps.
- Define the problem and establish the objective
- Develop the research plan
- Collect the information
- Analyze the information
- Present the findings and make decision
Define The Problem and Establish The Objective
Defining the problem is the first step in marketing research. There may be various problems in the business firm. From them, a researcher must be able to address the most burning problem which is creating overall problems in the business.
It is said that once the problem is well defined the half of the problem of research is solved. To identify the right problem the researcher must be able to establish cause and effect relationship between variables.
After identification of the research problem, the research objective should be defined, because the researcher is about the find out what to be achieved. And the objective should be related to the problem identified, if not maybe the research process does not fulfill to firm’s goals. Thus, the research problem and objective defined should be appropriate and interrelated.
Develop The Research Plan
After the identification of the research problem and objective, the second important step of the researcher is to develop a most efficient research plan to gather the most relevant information from various sources. Developing the research plan calls for decisions on the data sources, research approaches, research instruments, sampling plan, and contact methods.
Data Sources: The researcher may gather data for the research problem usually from two sources primary and secondary data. Primary data consists of original information at hand that does not exist already anywhere and secondary data consists of information that is already existed somewhere such as in books, articles, journals, etc.
If you are a researcher you should first collect secondary data and examine either the research problem fully or partly solved without considering primary data. And, if the problem is not solved go for primary data, because collecting primary data is costly and time-consuming.
Research Approaches: Generally, there are four approaches to collect primary data. They are:
- Observational Research. In the observation research, the researcher itself observes on the spot and experiences the facts or events.
- Focus Group Research. In focus group research, about 6-10 skilled people gather and discuss the common topic such as any problem, organization, or marketing entity. The collective output would be very informative for the research.
- Survey Research. Survey research is the study of a large or small population or universe by selecting a sample of choices. It usually undertakes to learn about people’s knowledge, beliefs, preferences, values, and so on.
- Experimental Method. This is scientifically valid research that aims to capture cause and effect relationships by eliminating competing explanations of the observed findings.
Research Instruments: Researchers may use various instruments while collecting primary data. The marketing researchers have two main choices of instruments for this purpose,
- Questionnaire. A questionnaire consists of a set of questions presented to a respondent for his or her answer. Questionnaires need to be carefully developed, tested, and designed before they are administered on a large scale.
- Mechanical Instruments. Mechanical instruments or devices include eye cameras, calculators, audiometers, cassette players, galvanometers, telescopes, etc.
Sampling Plan: A researcher can not collect primary data from all populations. He must have designed a sampling plan, which called for three decisions namely,
- Samling Unit. The sampling unit answers what is to be surveyed.
- Sample Size. The sample size answer how many people are to be surveyed?
- Sampling procedure. The sampling procedure answers how should the respondent be chosen?
Contact Method: After the sampling plan is completed, the researcher should determine how should the people be contacted. The choices are telephone, questionnaires, or personal interviews.
Collection of Information
After developing the research plan, the researcher should proceed with gathering desired information. The task of collecting the information is entirely based on the research design. While collecting information, the researchers should follow the following procedures:
- Prepare a list of populations to be interviewed or contacted.
- Make arrangements for travel to the identified areas.
- Communicate with the target group population and questionnaires and collect them from the target group.
- Check whether the information obtained from the population is relevant and adequate.
- If data are relevant and adequate, proceed for analysis.
Analysis of Information
Information collected from the target population is in the raw form. Before using their information in the research, they must be tabulated and analyzed systematically. While analyzing the information, the researchers should follow the following procedures:
- Select the information needed for the purpose and avoid unnecessary information.
- Tabulate the information required.
- Classify the information on the basis of the relevance or objective of the information.
- Use statistical or mathematical tools or models, if necessary, to obtain additional findings to judge the analysis. The selection of the best tool(s) may depend on the past and present trends of the situation.
Presents The Finding and Make Decision
After the analysis of data, it is the responsibility of the researcher to evaluate the research study to see whether the tools used are appropriate or the results obtained from the tools correctly. If everything is all right, the final report should be drafted by drawing suitable conclusions of the report present the report to the marketing manager or the authority concerned.
Once the report is presented to the concerned authority, the tasks of the marketing researcher come to an end.
And, when the present report is accepted by the concerned authority, can be used to make various marketing decisions.
Scope or Areas of Marketing Research
There are five major scope or areas of marketing research where it can be used and implemented effectively. They are given as follows:
The specialized form of marketing research that is aimed at improving the efficiency of advertising is termed advertising research. It is the systematic gathering and analysis of information that is crucial in the development and evaluation of advertising strategies, advertisements, commercials, media campaigns, etc. Advertising research involves:
- Motivation Research
- Copy Research
- Media Research
- Studies of Advertising Effectiveness
Business Economics and Corporate Research
The specialized form of marketing research that is aimed at the economic aspect of the business is termed business economics and corporate research. Business economics and corporate research involve:
- Short-range Forecasting
- Long-range Forecasting
- Studies of Business Trend Pricing Studies
- Plant and Warehouse Location Studies
Corporate Responsibility Research
Corporate responsibility research is a specialized form of marketing research conducted to improve the efficiency of corporate social responsibility of marketing firms. Corporate responsibility research involves:
- Consumer’s right-to-know Studies
- Ecological impact Studies
- Study of Legal Constraints
- Social Values and Policies Study
Sales and Market Research
Sales and market research is the systematic gathering and analysis of information that is crucial in the development of sales and market-based strategies. Sales and market research involves:
- Measurement of Market Potentials
- Market Share Analysis
- Determination of Market Characteristics
- Sales Analysis
- Establishment of Sales Quota, Territories
- Distribution Channels Studies
- Test Markets, Store Audits
- Consumer Panel Operations
- Sales Compensation Studies
- Promotional Studies of Premiums, Coupons, Sampling, and so on.
The scope of product marketing research primarily revolves around the different facts of the product development process. Product research involves:
- New Product Acceptance and Potential Studies
- Competitive Product Studies
- Testing of Existing Products
- Packing Research – Design or Physical Characteristics