Measuring Consumer Characteristics

Consumer research may also be classified according to whether demographic activity or cognitive information is sought. The following discussion will focus primarily on cognitive research approaches.

Demographic Measures:

Demographic research is concerned with gathering vital statistics about consumers – such characteristics as their age, income, sex, occupation, location, race, marital status and education. Notice that since these characteristics are easily quantifiable they enable the marketer to describe accurately and specially and to understand better chain consumer characteristics.

Much of demographic data on consumer markets is a product of federal, state, and local government sources. One of the best sources of demographic data is the US census Bureau. Population statistics and other official information are easily obtained and can be useful, even vital, for small businesses that cannot afford expensive marketing research.

Consumer Activity Measures:

Often the researcher seeks to understand various aspects of consumer’s activities. For example, questions such as the following may be of interest. When do consumers buy this item? Which stores do they choose? How do they shop in these stores? How often do they shop or buy? How loyal are consumers to certain brands? Which information sources do they utilize in making a decision on which brand to purchase?

Cognitive measures:

Consumer researchers who desire to know more about their market than just demographic characteristics or activity patterns may attempt to collect cognitive information, perceptions and information processing. Merely observing consumers cannot fully explain why they behave as they do, and questioning often does not provide reliable answers because of consumer’s inability or reluctance to reveal true feelings to an interviewer. Thus, researchers attempt to utilize other techniques to explore intervening variables potentially useful in explaining consumer behavior.

This section describes associative and projective techniques that are used in consumer research to help explain the why of consumer behavior. Also, the depth interview is discussed because of its primary use in uncovering motives. Finally, attitudinal research approaches incorporating rating scales are presented.

Motivation research:

During the 1950s companies became increasingly concerned with why consumers bought one product or brand instead of another. With the growth in income levels particularly discretionary income, and as products became more alike. It grew even more important that marketers determine the attitudes, motives, values, perceptions and images that might govern consumers’ product / brand selections. To provide such answers a group of investigation termed motivation researchers came to the forefront of marketing studies using qualitative rather than quantitative research approaches.

A set of projective techniques that had originally been developed by clinical psychologists was adapted and began to be used in consumers’ research along with various notions from the field of psychoanalysis. The techniques and notions became known by the general term of motivation research or in its abbreviated form simply MR. It must be emphasized that these techniques are not used exclusively for studying consumers’ motivations nor do they include all the tools available for such study. Actually motivation research shares many techniques with other areas of consumer research that are seeking to understand consumers. Several of these projective techniques a briefly characterized below.

Word association tests:

Word association is a relatively old and simple technique used by researchers. Respondents are read out a list of words one at a time, and asked to answer quickly with the first thing that comes into their minds after hearing each one. By answering rapidly respondents presumably indicate what they associate most closely with the word offered and they thereby reveal their true inner feelings.

The sentence completion test is an adaptation of the word association test in which the interviewer begins a sentence and the respondent finishes it. For example, conducting a study for a radio station the interviewer might use the following WBRU plays music that appeals to. The story completion test is yet another expanded word association test in which the respondent is told part of a story and is instructed to complete it in his or her own words. This technique can be useful in uncovering the images consumers have about stores and products and information that is generated can be applied in advertising and promotional themes.

Source: Consumer Behavior