Marketing researchers have a choice of three main research instruments in collecting primary data: questionnaires, qualitative measures, and mechanical devices.
A questionnaire consists of a set of questions presented to respondents. Because of its flexibility, the questionnaire is by far the most common instrument used to collect primary data. Questionnaires need to be carefully developed, tested, and debugged before they are administered on a large scale. In preparing a questionnaire, the researcher carefully chooses the questions and their form, wording and sequence. The form of the question can influence the response. Marketing researchers distinguish between closed-end and open-end questions. Closed-end questions specify all the possible answers and provide answers that are easier to interpret and tabulate. Open-end questions allow respondents to answer in their own words and often reveal more how people think. They are especially useful in exploratory research, where the researcher is looking for insight into how people think rather than measuring how many people think a certain way.
Some marketers prefer more qualitative methods for gauging consumer opinion because consumer actions do not always match their answers to survey questions. The range of possible qualitative research techniques is limited only by the creativity of the marketing researcher. Here are seven techniques employed be design firm IDEO for understanding the customer experience.
1. Shadowing — observing people using products, shopping, going to- hospitals, taking the train, using their cell phones.
2. Behavior mapping — photographing people within a space, such as a hospital waiting room, over two or three days.
3. Consumer journey — keeping track of all the interactions a consumer has with a product, service, or space.
4. Camera journals — asking consumers to keep visual diaries of their activities and impressions relating to a product.
5. Extreme user interviews — talking to people who really know — or know nothing â€“ about a product or service and evaluating their experience using it.
6. Storytelling — prompting people to tell personal stories about their consumersâ€™ experiences.
7. Interviewing a diverse group of people: To explore ideas about sandals, IDEO gathered an artist, a bodybuilder, a podiatrist, and a shoe fetishist.
Qualitative research techniques are relatively unstructured measurement approaches that permit a range of possible responses, and they are a creative means of ascertaining consumer perceptions that may otherwise be difficult to uncover.