Gathering Primary Data Quantitative and Qualitative Research

If, after seeking all reasonable secondary data sources, research questions are still not adequately answered, the market researcher must collect primary data – that is, collected specifically for the particular research project at hand. The researcher may question the firm’s sales representatives, distributors, middlemen, and/or customers to get appropriate market information. In most primary data collection, the researcher questions respondents to determine what they think about some topic or how they might behave under certain conditions. Marketing research methods can be grouped into two basic types: quantitative and qualitative research. In both methods, the marketer is interested in gaining knowledge about the market.

In quantitative research, usually a large number of respondents are asked to reply either verbally or in writing to structured questions using a specific response (such as yes / no) or to select a response from a set of choices. Questions are designed to obtain response regarding aspects of the respondent behavior, intentions, attitudes, motives, and demographic characteristics. Quantitative research provides the marketer with responses that can be presented with precise estimations. The structured responses received in a survey can be summarized in percentages, averages or other statistics. For example, 76 per cent of the respondents prefer product A over product B, and so Survey research is generally associated with quantitative research and the typical instrument used is the questionnaire administered by personal interview, mail, telephone, and most recently over the Internet.

Scientific studies often are conducted by engineers and chemists in product testing laboratories around the world. There, product designs and formulas are developed and tested in consumer usage situations. Often those results are integrated with consumer opinions gathered in concurrent survey studies. One of the best examples of this kind of marketing research comes from Tokyo. You may not know it, but the Japanese are the world champions of bathroom and toilet technology. Japan’s biggest company in that industry, Toto has spent millions of dollars developing and testing consumer products. Thousands of people have collected data (using survey techniques) on the best features of a toilet, and at the company’s human engineering laboratory volunteers sit in a Toto bathtub with electrodes strapped to their skulls, to measure brain waves and the effects of bathing on the human body. Toto is now introducing one of its high tech (actually low tech compared with what if offers in Japan) toilets. It’s a $ 600 seat, lid and control panel that attaches to the regular American bowl. It features a heated seat and deodorizing fan.

In qualitative research, if questions are asked they are almost always open ended or in depth and unstructured responses that reflect the person’s thoughts and feelings on the subject are sought. Consumers’ first impressions are important qualitative approach to marketing research. One research spent two months observing birthing practices in Americana and Japanese hospitals to gain insights into the export of healthcare services. Nissan Motors sent a researcher to live with an American family (renting a room in their house for six weeks) to directly observe how Americans use their cars. Andersons Worldwide, Nynex and Texas commerce Bank have all employed anthropologists who specialize in observation and in depth interviews in their marketing research. Qualitative research seeks to interpret what the people in the sample are like – their outlooks, their feelings the dynamic interplay of their feelings and ideas, their attitudes and opinions, and their resulting actions. The most often used form of qualitative questioning is the focus group interview.

Qualitative research is used in international marketing research to formulate and define a problem more clearly and to determine relevant question to be examined in subsequent research. It is also used where interest is centered on gaining an understanding of a market, rather than quantifying relevant aspects. For example, a small group of key executives at Solar turbines International, a division of Caterpillar Tractor company called on key customers at their offices the world. They discussed in great depth with both financial managers and production engineers potential applications and the demand for a new size of gas turbine engine the company was considering developing. The data and insights gained during the interviews to a large degree confirmed the validity of the positive demand forecasts produced internally through macroeconomic modeling. The multimillion dollar project was then implemented. Additionally, during the discussions new product features we suggested by the customer personnel that proved most useful in the development efforts.