The Continuing Evolution of Marketing Research

A number of trends in marketing research may well shape the ways we conduct research in the future.

Just look at the possibilities floating around now � Do-It-Yourself research, social media as a research tool, neural and behavioral sciences research � and the list goes on. Several years ago if someone had mentioned behavioral research or �blogs�, most researchers wouldn�t have known what you were talking about. Now, you�re not up-to-date if you don�t know about these research concepts.

While there are many ways to perform market research, most businesses historically use one or more of five basic research methods: surveys, focus groups, personal interviews, observatPolarision, and field trials. The type of data you need and how much money you�re willing to spend will determine which techniques you choose for your study.

Each of these techniques have been used successfully for years which is fine, as long as you don�t lose sight of what they were designed to do and the cost involved.

For example, many survey methodologies are straightforward, concise and above all, practical. But drawbacks to these techniques could range from the cost of conducting interviews one-on-one, which has the highest response rate, to the lack of sample obtainable from telephone surveys due to caller I.D. and similar call-blocking technologies. Mail surveys are cheap, but have an extremely low response rate and online surveys can be conducted fast, but you have little control over the �identity� of the respondents, even in a panel setting.

On the qualitative side, focus groups are good ways to get directional information, but you wouldn�t base a million-dollar business decision on a couple dozen people�s opinions.

Although new research techniques are being developed, it doesn�t necessarily mean they�re any better or more reliable than current methodologies used. Or to put it another way, just because you can do it doesn�t mean you have to!

The same thing applies to marketing research. Somewhere along the way, some customers, and researchers as well, lost the idea of �practical� research. You�ve heard of the KISS principle? Well, I�m a firm proponent of the KIPP principle � �Keep It Practical, Please!� In my working career I�ve seen researchers deliberately add analytical components to surveys that make them appear very flashy but rarely does it make them more valid. For end-users of research, keeping things simple and easy to understand go a lot further than all the higher analytics that can be thrown into a report for effect. Usually, that will just confuse the end-user, if not the researcher!

That being said, researchers are always on the lookout for more effective ways to gather reliable information. Social media may soon be a major way to collect directional information about a company�s product or program. Already, Facebook has surpassed Google in the number of users and companies are seeing that establishing a Facebook page for their company is not only a great way to build brand loyalty but it helps engage the consumer with the product.

Blogs and �tweets� are other ways that information can be disseminated fast in the cyber world. But blogs and �tweets� are opinions, not survey results. Blogs are good to monitor your brand�s equity among consumers while �tweets� help to build the brand�s awareness.

Another new entry into the research market is �Do-It-Yourself� research. Again, in and of itself, this is not a bad thing but it can be a dangerous thing if not used correctly. And by �used correctly� I mean being able to generate the questions you�d like to ask, without introducing any bias, using a representative sample and then correctly interpreting the results. If any of these components are missing or misused, you�ve just bought yourself a �Do-It-Yourself� disaster!

So, with new methodologies come new challenges to verify the data gathered is accurate and projectable. The market research industry is evolving and as researchers, the challenge will be to focus on delivering reliable, practical research and not adopt new methodologies that add little to the final analysis of data.

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