Conducting Experiments and Surveys

Consumer researchers may conduct experiments in the field (that is, the actual setting of the market place) or they may test hypotheses under laboratory conditions (which include any environment stimulating real or actual conditions).

Field experiments provide a natural setting of research in order to overcome the problems of artificiality sometimes found in the laboratory. However, gaining realism from the market place environment can come at the cost of losing some control over experimental situation.

Test marketing is one business equivalent of the scientist’s field experiment. In the market test, different marketing variables (such as prices and advertisements) are tried in several market areas to determine which receives the most favorable consumer response. New product introductions may be tested for approximately six months to two years or more, during which the product is promoted and treated as if it were on the market in full scale way.

Unfortunately the expenses of many field experiments can be prohibitive and the length of time involved also makes this type of research inappropriate for some studies. The fact that the field experiment is conducted in the marketplace however, can enhance the credibility of the results.

Laboratory experiments are useful because they typically allow greater control over extraneous variables than is possible in the real world. Also, the investigator may be better able to manipulate experimental treatment in the controlled environment of the laboratory. However a potential problem with such experiments is that they can sometimes become too artificial thereby insufficiently representing the real world. An example of a laboratory experiment could be to discover consumer taste preferences regarding Pepsi, Coke, and Royal Crown Cola. The laboratory situation allows control over extraneous variables such as temperature of the samples, types of container prices, and brand names. Thus, rather than using the products’ bottles or cans, drinks could be presented to subjects in glasses of the same size, color with no brand name or price information on them.


In the survey method of gathering data, consumers are not only aware of the fact that they are being studied but they actively participate. Some companies such as Kroger Co., are heavy users of surveys. Kroger holds more than 250,000 consumer interviews a year to define consumer wants more precisely. There are three survey data collection techniques- personal interviews, telephone surveys and mail surveys.

Personal Interviews:

Direct face to face interaction between the interviewers and the respondent is perhaps the personal interview’s greatest advantage over other types of surveys. A large amount of information can be obtained with a relatively high degree of accuracy by this approach. Flexibility is a further advantage, since questions can be modified to suit the situation or clarification can be provided if necessary. A major disadvantage of this approach, however, is its high cost. Personal interviews often occur in shopping malls because of the relative ease of obtaining a representative group of respondents. These are known as mall intercept interviews.

Telephone surveys:

The telephone survey can be a useful alternative to the personal interview because it provides for interviewers respondent interaction and is quicker and less expensive to conduct than are personal interviews. Today, access to Wide Area Telephone service (WATS) makes it easy for researchers to sample a vast geographic area for a comparatively low price. Telephone surveys work well when the objective is to measure certain behavior at the time of the interview or immediately prior to the interviews such as radio listening or television viewing. It is also easier to reach subjects by telephone and many people who would not consent to a personal interview are willing to participate over the phone. These surveys generally achieve higher response rates than do mail surveys or personal interviews.

Source: Consumer Behavior