Appendix – as needed marketing research
We can define as needed marketing research as:
Research that is conducted when there are emerging situational factors that require marketing practitioners to collect and analyse new information.
The initial step
Readers may be familiar with as needed research as it is generally presented as part of a business degree. The following brief summary is included to provide a quick refresher on the ‘as needed’ marketing research process. As needed marketing research is an important component in the decision-making process.
A useful first step in the as needed research process is conducting a qualitative experience survey. This may assist a marketing practitioner to gain a better understanding of the research phenomenon. An experience survey involves talking with knowledgeable personnel and industry experts. Experience surveys help to define the topic and help set the parameters for future research – as needed.
Secondary and primary data
If the research question requires further research beyond an experience survey the marketing practitioner will source information – this information may be classified as secondary data or primary data. Each of these will be discussed:
Author’s comment: The term secondary data often confuses readers. It is confusing because it is generally assembled prior to primary data and the term primary suggests first. Secondary data is generally collected prior to primary data as it is faster and less expensive than the collection of primary data, nevertheless, secondary data should be assessed in terms of quality and relevance (Zikmund, 1994).
Secondary data is existing data that has been previously collected. Secondary data falls into two categories:
- Internal secondary data: data that is currently available within the organisation. This information may be available from existing organisational data [e.g. sales data] and from past research [e.g., internal reports] [see software for marketing practitioners].
- External secondary data: data that is currently available from sources external to the organisation. An example would be data that has been collected by government agencies, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics [considerable information is available online at www.abs.gov.au]. Libraries, local councils, industry bodies [associations], universities and private research companies are other possible sources of secondary data.
Marketing practitioners should resist the temptation to begin the collection of primary data until a comprehensive search of secondary data has been analysed (Zikmund, 1994). Secondary data is often cheaper and faster to retrieve.
Primary data is data that is not available from secondary sources (Neal, Quester & Hawkins, 2004) Therefore, it must be collected to address a specific research problem. It is increasingly common for organisations to engage a specialist research organisation to design and conduct primary data collection. Although the marketing practitioner may not conduct the marketing research it is advisable they have sufficient research skills to:
- Be familiar with the appropriate research methodology
- Communicate the research problem
- Communicate the aims and objectives
- Oversee research procedures
- Interpret and communicate the findings within the organisation.
The 5 stages of as needed research
According to Shilbury et al. (2003) and Pride, Ferrell, Lukas, Schembri, and Nuninen, (2015) the market research process to collect primary data has, generally, five distinct phases:
1: Clearly define the research problem and objectives
Problem definition focuses on uncovering the topic and parameters of the research. Often the first indication of a problem is an unexplained departure from a historical trend. This departure could be welcomed or unwelcomed; for example, at a sporting organisation it may be a decrease in membership, spectatorship or sponsorship. Clearly identifying the research problem helps define the parameters of the research.
Authors’ comment: The word problem is used to indicate a situation that requires investigation or construction.
2: Develop an appropriate methodology
There is no one best type of research. This phase involves determining the type of research that will provide the most suitable results. For example, a marketing practitioner researching what or why something is happening will use a different methodology when measuring how often, when and with whom it is happening. The first research problem requires a qualitative approach to diagnose the situation, whilst the second research problem requires a quantitative approach to measure the frequency. Furthermore, the marketing practitioner who wishes to research both research problems may employ a research methodology that incorporates both approaches – a mixed methods approach (Cahill, 1996).
Saegart & Fennell (1991) emphasise the importance of qualitative research to the marketing concept. They suggest that marketing practitioners look beyond the statistics to truly understand the motivations behind the consumption patterns. This allows marketing practitioners to develop an innate knowledge of their product; their customers and how their organisation can best meet their needs.
Another important consideration is establishing the parameters of what and who to study and what and who not to study.
When the research problem is inchoate or the research problem is to identify more subjective issues qualitative techniques are more appropriate than quantitative techniques. Neal et al. (2004) suggests that three qualitative techniques are often employed by researchers:
- Individual in-depth interviews
- Focus group interviews
- Observational research
In-depth interviews are often one-on-one interviews where the participants have been selected because they can add value to the research. Neal et al. (2004) suggests that in-depth interviews are appropriate when:
- Detailed probing is needed
- The topic is highly confidential/sensitive
- The topic has affective qualities
- The subject challenges social norms
- A step by step answer is needed
Focus group interviews
Focus groups are comprised of between eight to twelve individuals; broadly representing the characteristics of a market segment and a moderator. Neal et al. (2004) suggests that focus group interviews are appropriate when undertaking:
- New product conceptualisation
- New product exploration
- Product positioning
- Advertising appeal
- Establishing a vocabulary for future studies
- Uncovering attitudes and behaviours
Adler and Adler (1994) suggest that observational research is one of the oldest forms of research and it is often employed in conjunction with other techniques. Observation is a useful technique when the product is consumed in public. In addition, Neal et al. (2004) suggests that observation is useful when the behaviour that is being observed is repetitive, frequent and occurs in a relatively short time span. Observational research must be purposeful, systematic, recorded, and trustworthy and authentic (Zikmund, 1994). Decisions that observational researchers must make:
- Undertake the research in a natural or contrived setting
- Determine which observational role to take:
- The complete-member-researcher
- The active-member-researcher
- The peripheral member researcher
There are a number of methods to record the behaviour patterns and the occurrences, including employing mechanical observation
3: Data collection
The next phase is the how, where and when of data collection. There are a number of traditional methods available surveys [mail, personal, telephone]; focus groups, observation and experimentation as methods employed by market researchers.
HOWEVER, marketing researchers are increasingly employing social media researchers to find out what consumers are actually saying on social media platforms: following social media conversations, who is saying what about their products/brands and competing products/brands, what are the trends, what are the perceived risks preventing adoption of a product. Employing expert researchers is particularly important in an era when text is decreasing and images are increasing [a picture says 1,000 words]. For example, an organisation may wish to explore how often their logo appears at a sponsored sporting event. It should also be noted that analytic tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated. If an organisation engages an expert researcher on a contract with a regular report on the findings this may fall under the banner of everyday marketing research.
Generally, time and organisational cost constraints precludes the collection of data from every member of the population therefore a sample [a selected portion of a large group] is generally selected. According to Zikmund (1984) establishing a sample requires a number of sampling decisions prior to conducting data collection:
- Define the target population
- Select a sample frame
- Select a non-probability [e.g. convenience or judgment] or probability [random] sampling method
- Determine procedures for selecting sampling units
- Determine sample size
- Select actual sampling units
- Conduct data collection
4: Interpreting data
The next phase involves interpreting the data and drawing conclusions. There are a number of software packages available to assist with this task. However, often a meeting of the Strategic Business Planning Group provides multiple perspectives.
5: Presentation of findings
The final stage is to report the research findings accurately and without bias or distortion. The report should describe the research methodology and the limitations of the research.