Consumer Research Strategies

Many strategies are available in the process of researching consumers. For example studies may differ according to the goal of the research, the type of data used, and the time frame of the investigation. Each of these approaches will be discussed in this article.

Goals of Consumer Research:

Two major strategies of consumer research classified according to their goals are exploratory and conclusive studies.

Exploratory Research:

Exploratory research is used to identify variables influencing consumers and discover how consumers may tend to react to these factors. This research occurs in situations when there is not enough known about consumers to draw conclusions about what variables are influencing their behavior. Two significant methods used in exploratory research are consumer suggestions and focus groups.

Consumers’ suggestions:

In the business world, many influences and problems encountered by the consumers are discovered through the spontaneous suggestions of consumers themselves. For example many retailers conduct an informal type of research similar to the familiar suggestion box. In this way customers with complaints or new ideas are able to express them in a timely fashion. The more recent use of 800 telephone numbers for consumers’ questions, complaints and suggestions is yet another example.

Focus Groups:

Another popular technique for exploratory research is the focus group interview. Focus groups generally bring together in a casual setting eight to ten people with similar backgrounds to apply the principles of group dynamics and free association to a marketing problem. A moderator guides the discussion but allows consumers to interact with each other. The sessions which last about two hours, are usually videotaped.

Focus groups can be helpful in specific ways to:

1) Generate hypotheses about consumers and market situations.
2) Suggest fresh and revitalized ideas
3) Check an advertisement package or product concept to determine if anything about it is confusing, misleading or negative
4) Understand consumers language and motivations
5) Understand consumer’s lifestyles and personalities.
6) Explore a new area as a prelude to a quantitative study.
7) Do a postmortem on a failed product

It is important to appreciate that the primary objective of exploratory research such as focus group interviewing is hypothesis formulation that is, forming a conjectural statement about the relationship between two or more variables.

Conclusive Research: Conclusive research builds upon exploratory research specifically the major goals of conclusive research are to describe consumers’ behavior and to offer explanations for its causes. In addition the prediction of consumers’ behavior and methods of influencing it can be suggested by conclusive research.

Type of data used:

Two basic sources of data can be used in consumer research: primary and secondary data. Primary data are those the researchers gather firsthand for the specific problem being investigated. However there is a vast amount of information about consumers which is already compiled and readily accessible to the researchers who know how to find and use it. Such data that has been collected for a purpose other than the research project at hand are termed as secondary data. Before gathering primary data, the researchers should search through secondary sources to determine if any are applicable to the problem at hand. Because the types of secondary data are too numerous to describe here, and interested readers should refer to other sources for further information. Our focus will be on primary data and the methods used to gather them.

Research Time Frame:

Generally speaking in consumer research studies primary data can be collected either at one time or over a period of time. We refer to these research designs as cross sectional and longitudinal respectively. These two approaches have different purposes. As its name implies the cross sectional design is used to study behavior at any one point in time. For example such study seeks to determine the knowledge the various consumers have about a particular brand right after advertisement have been run for it.

Source: Consumer Behavior