Consumer research approach


Observational Research

Fresh data can be gathered by observing the relevant actors and settings. Consumers can be unobtrusively observed as they shop or as they consume products. Ogilvy and Mather’s discovery group creates documentary style video by sending researchers into consumers’ homes with handheld video cameras. Hours of footage are edited to a 30-minute “highlight reel� which to the group uses to analyze consumer behavior. Other researchers equip consumers with pagers and instruct them to write down what they are doing whenever prompted, or holed more informal interview sessions at a Café of bar . The American Airline researchers might hang around the first class lounges to hear how travelers talk about the different carriers and their features. They can fly on competitors’ planes to observe the in flight services.

Focus Group Research

A focus group is a gathering of six to ten people who are carefully selected based on certain demographic, psychographic, or other considerations and brought together to discuss at length various topic of interest Participants are normally paid a small sum for attending. A professional research moderator provides questions and probes based on the discussion guide or agenda prepared by the responsible marketing managers to ensure that the right material gets covered.

Although focus group research has been shown to be a useful exploratory step, researchers must avoid generalizing the reported feelings of the focus group participants to the whole market, because the sample size is too small and the sample is not drawn randomly. “Marketing Insight: Conducting Informative Focus Group� have some practical tips to improve the quality of focus group.

Survey Research

Companies undertake surveys to learn about people’s knowledge, beliefs, preference, satisfaction, and to measure these magnitudes in the general population. A Company such as American Airlines might prepare its own survey instrument to gather the information it needs, or it might add questions to an Omnibus survey that carries the questions of several companies, at a much lower cost. It can also put the question to an on going consumer panel run by itself or another company. It may do a mall intercept study by having researchers approach people in a shopping mall and ask them questions.

Behavioral Data

Customers leave traces of their purchasing behavior in store scanning data, catalog purchases, and customer data bases. Much can be learned by analyzing these data. Customers’ actual purchases reflect preferences and often are more reliable than statement they offer to market researchers. People may report preferences for popular brands, and yet the data shows them actually buying other brands. For example, grocery shopping data show that high income people do not necessarily buy the more expensive brands, contrary to what they might state in interviews and many low income people buy some expensive brands. Clearly, American Airlines can learn many useful things about its passengers by analyzing ticket purchase records.

Experimental Research

The most scientifically valid research is experimental research. The purpose of experimental research is to capture cause- and-effect relationship by eliminating competing explanations of the observed findings. To the extent that the design and execution of the experiment eliminate alternative hypotheses that might explain the results, research and marketing managers can have confidence in the conclusions.

Experiments call for selecting matched groups of subjects, subjecting them to different treatments, controlling extraneous variables, and checking whether observed response differences are statistically significant. To the extent that extraneous factors are eliminated or controlled, the observed effects can be related to the variations in the treatment.

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