A number of companies provide product testing services. Nielsen offers a set of small towns where store sales are already monitored. The company’s staff will place the product and ensure its availability throughout the test. Sales data for the test product and competing brands are made available on a weekly or monthly basis. NPD provides a service consisting of some 20 local market test panels comprised of about 30,000 households. These panels provide data on the usage (including brand loyalty) of a new product by household demographics.
Behavior Scan (a service of information Resources, Inc) offers the most sophisticated test market system. It consists of 10 test markets in which the company has installed UPC scanners in all supermarkets. Members of local household panels in these markets have all their supermarket purchases recorded electronically by using a special ID card.
The company also has a way of substituting test TV ads for commercial ads under normal viewing conditions in their household panels. Thus, by combining the two scanning and viewing technologies the service can correlate advertising exposure with product purchase data.
Given the availability of people meters and in-home hand held UPC scanners/recorders, it seems inevitable that we will see more and more services collecting purchases and media exposure data from the same households. NPD and Nielsen are moving it his direction – as is Arbitron.
Other Commercial Research Services: Many other research agencies provide either continuous marketing data or have a specialized service designed to help solve a particular marketing problem. Examples of the former include the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which supplies data on the paid circulations of newspaper and magazines; Media Records, which gives newspaper linage purchased by advertisers; Publishers Information Bureau, which reports monthly expenditures by advertisers in major media vehicles; Dun & Bradstreet which furnishes credit information on individuals firms; and T W Dodge Corporation which compiles construction statistics. Yankelovich, Skelly, and White provide a service that tracks social trends, public policy issues, and consumerism pressures.
Databases: The rapid development of computer technology has dramatically changed ways of storing and retrieving information of all kinds. Databases, organized collections of information on a particular subject area, have proliferated. With few exceptions the database are created and maintained by commercial firms who charge a fee for their services. Most databases searchers are trained in the techniques of information retrieval and act as intermediaries for researchers. Search services may be available from information brokers, regional centers university and public libraries, or information specialists within companies and organizations. In addition to these mediated services, there is a growing trend towards making databases easily usable by untrained users who have access to a personal computer and a communications link to the host databases. One database vendor has developed menu driven software designed just for the business community.
First developed of the scientific community and then for the medical and legal professionals, databases are now available for a wide range of business related needs. Some of these databases exist only in computer readable form; some have print counterparts. Usually, information stored in databases is more extensive and more current than that found in print sources.
Databases may take a number of forms:
1. Bibliographic – online bibliographies or indexes and abstracts of books, journals, reports, and other such information.
2. Full text – the entire text of articles, reports, or other source data;
3. Directory – online lists, of names, services, or companies;
4. Statistical – numerical data, including financial statistics, sometimes preformatted and sometimes in raw form.
Although using databases for secondary data is not without complications, a growing number of businesses of all sorts now depend heavily on such information.