Six-Step Marketing Research Process

RESEARCH PROCESS. In this slide, we will examine the six steps
of conducting research from start to finish. The first step is to define the problem. Managers may express a concern and define
the problem from managerial perspective, which is not always helpful in doing marketing research. For instance they may tell you, sales dropped;
however, this could be a symptom for a much deeper problem that gives rise to the symptom. The reason for the sales to drop might be
that consumer preferences have changed. This could be the real problem. As a researcher, you then need to gather information
about the changing consumer preferences and examine the relationship between the changing
consumer preferences, their perception of the company’s products, and their purchase. All aspects of the information about consumer
preferences will be what you need to find out from the research. So you can define the problem as perhaps,
“to understand how consumer preferences might have changed and its impact on their
attitudes towards the current product offering.” The second step is to develop an approach
to the problem. In this step, we are trying to identify what
information we should gather to address the problem defined. To identify informational needs for marketing
research, often times, we refer to analytical framework and models that is known to be effective
and theory driven. In other words, we do a background research
for the topic of interest by examining the existing body of knowledge accumulated through
previous research. This is often called literature review in
academic research. You may also call it a secondary data research
as you would look at secondary sources of data conducted by someone else. Knowing enough about a theory or existing
body of knowledge helps us to pose research questions or even formulate a rather specific
responses to the research question. Hypotheses are a statement of the expected
relationship among the concepts stated in the hypothesis. For example, you may hypothesize that “changing
consumer preference will have a negative impact on attitude towards the product.” Thus, having a hypothesis allows researchers
to articulate the concepts that must be captured when we ask questions in a questionnaire. Thus, both research questions and hypothesis
are necessary for us to determine the kinds of information we need in order to address
the problem. One question often asked is what is the difference
between research question and hypothesis. Well, there is not much difference between
the two except that we use the term, “hypothesis” if we do have a specific direction regarding
the relationship between the concepts. In this case we would state the relationship
clearly as follows: “changing consumer preference will have a negative impact on attitude towards
the product.” When we do not have specific expectations
for the relationship due to lack of sufficient rationale to support it, we call it a research
question and would state in a form of question as in “How will changing consumer behavior
influence their attitudes towards the product.” In sum, developing an approach to the problem
involves doing a literature review or background research, and formulating research questions
or hypotheses. You might ask, “what do I do when there
is no theoretical model or analytical framework perhaps because what I am dealing with is
a brand new phenomenon?” My answer would be dig up the literature thoroughly. There is normally something in extant research
that can help you understand the new phenomena. For instance, social media marketing is surely
a new phenomenon, but there are plenty of research done in offline mode that could shed
light on the consumer behavior in the context of the new medium. I tend to believe a saying, “there is nothing
new under the sun.” Having said this, however, there can be a
legitimate reason why marketers are reluctant to rely totally on literature review. First, most market research practitioners
may not have access to the expensive database to do literature review, so they may rely
on world wide web to gather whatever information they could get their hands on. More importantly, there are also cases when
you just cannot gain enough insights about the issue from the literature review because
the knowledge generated through the basic research is so general and broad that there
is often no specific information tailored for the specific products for a specific target
consumer groups. In this case, marketing research professionals
tend to prefer conducting some sort of quick qualitative research to gain insights into
the problem. This includes soliciting opinions of industry
expert and conducting focus group research or interviews to hear directly from consumers. All of these are called exploratory research
because you are exploring the issue rather than testing hypotheses, preconceived expectations. This type of exploratory research helps researchers
gather enough information to articulate research questions or hypothesis and ask right questions
in a questionnaire that will be used in a conclusive research, which is the next step. The third step is to formulate conclusive
research. You will need to determine which type of research
to use; You may use a survey, an observation or an experiment. A right method will be determined in part
by research questions and hypotheses among other things. Next, you work on measurement and scale, which
is about operationalizing the concepts embedded in the research questions and hypotheses. For instance, one of the concepts in the hypothesis
given previously is “attitude towards the brand.” Let’s say you decided to operationalize
the construct by asking the participants to indicate the extent to which the product is
positive/negative, desirable/undesirable, useful/useless, high quality/low quality on
1 to 7 point scale. A set of these four questions are a measure
of the construct called “attitude towards the product. Once measurement and scale is determined,
you can easily design a questionnaire by simply including those question items for each of
the constructs in the questionnaire, and arranging them in a proper order. Thus, measurement is about deciding what to
ask in order to capture the true meaning of the concept or construct. Once questionnaire is ready, you will select
a right sampling method and sample size. The fourth step is to do field work and collect
the data. This is one of the challenging process. The harder it is to reach the target audience,
the more expensive it is to collect data. The fifth step is to prepare the data for
analysis and analyze the data. Researchers normally use statistical package
such as SPSS, Excel, R, or SAS. SPSS is the most popular tool in survey research
but R has been catching up rapidly since it is a open source and free. R is great. Very powerful. You can draw awesome charts that no other
software can match. It is also great for data mining and text
mining. The six and the last step is to prepare report
and make a presentation. According to a recent survey I conducted,
market research professionals consider presentation as the most important fundamental knowledge
to learn. I will teach you later how to design presentation
slides and make a great presentation. Most market researchers do not get to perform
every step of the research process because division of labor works in market research
industry too. There are a lot of teamwork involved. If you are running a company as a sole principal
like me, you will have to do the majority of the work. Even then, some of the works may be outsourced. For instance, many researchers tend not to
collect data by themselves. Rather they tend to outsource it to data collection
specialty companies like SSI, STS, and Research Now. Having said this, however, everyone needs
to know about the six step research process to understand the role of their work in the
broad scheme of marketing research process. Okay, we are done on this slide. I probably talked too much on this, but I
couldn’t help because this slides sum up the whole thing you will learn about doing
research from start to finish. I hope you absorb as much as you can now and
revisit this slides later for review.

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