The Market Research Process

Defining Objectives and Formulating Problems

Defining the problem and research objectives is the first step involved in the marketing research process.

Learning Objectives

Outline objectives and problems as part of the marketing research process

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The marketing research process involves six steps: 1: problem definition, 2: development of an approach to the problem, 3: research design formulation, 4: data collection, 5: data preparation and analysis, and 6: report preparation and presentation.
  • The first step in any marketing research study is to define the problem, while taking into account the purpose of the study, the relevant background information, what information is needed, and how it will be used in decision making.
  • This stage involves discussion with the decision makers, interviews with industry experts, analysis of secondary data, and, perhaps, some qualitative research, such as focus groups.
  • There are three types of objectives that can be deployed in marketing research: exploratory research, descriptive research, and causal research.

Key Terms

  • Marketing Research: The function that links the consumers, customers, and public to the marketer through information. This information is used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process.
  • Objective: Not influenced by irrational emotions or prejudices.
  • Systematic: Carried out using a planned, ordered procedure.
  • ethnographic research: information regarding cultural phenomena

Marketing Research Is Systematic and Objective:

  • Systematic planning is required at all the stages of the marketing research process. The procedures followed at each stage are methodologically sound, well documented, and, as much as possible, planned in advance. Marketing research uses the scientific method in that data are collected and analyzed to test prior notions or hypotheses.
  • Marketing research aims to provide accurate information that reflects a true state of affairs and, thus, should be conducted impartially. While research is always influenced by the researcher’s research philosophy, it should be free from the personal or political biases of the researcher or the management.

Overview of the Marketing Research Process:

  • Step 1: Problem Definition
  • Step 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem
  • Step 3: Research Design Formulation
  • Step 4: Field Work or Data Collection
  • Step 5: Data Preparation and Analysis
  • Step 6: Report Preparation and Presentation

Step 1: Problem Definition

Define the problem and research objectives. The first step in any marketing research study is to define the problem, while taking into account the purpose of the study, the relevant background information, what information is needed, and how it will be used in decision making. This stage involves discussion with the decision makers, interviews with industry experts, analysis of secondary data, and, perhaps, some qualitative research, such as focus groups. There are three types of objectives that can be deployed in marketing research:

A series of question marks.

What’s the Problem?: The first stage of the marketing research process involves defining the problem.

1. Exploratory research

  • Used to better define a problem or scout opportunities.
  • In-depth interviews and discussions groups are commonly used.

2. Descriptive research

  • Used to assess a situation in the marketplace (i.e., potential for a specific product or consumer attitudes).
  • Methods include personal interviews and surveys.

3. Causal research

  • Used for testing cause and effect relationships.
  • Typically through estimation.

Plan the Research Design

The research design is a framework or blueprint for conducting the marketing research project.

Learning Objectives

Describe the formulation of research design within the context of the marketing research process

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The marketing research process is comprised of six steps: 1: problem definition, 2: development of an approach to the problem, 3: research design formulation, 4: field work or data collection, 5: data preparation and analysis and, 6: report preparation and presentation.
  • It details the procedures necessary for obtaining the required information, and its purpose is to design a study that will test the hypotheses of interest, determine possible answers to the research questions, and provide the information needed for decision making.
  • Decisions also are made regarding what data should be obtained from the respondents (e.g., by conducting a survey or an experiment), and a questionnaire and sampling plan also are designed in order to select the most appropriate respondents for the study.
  • Research design involves secondary data analysis; qualitative research; quantitative data methods (survey, observation, and experimentation); information needed; measurement and scaling procedures; questionnaire design; sampling process and sample size; and a plan of data analysis.

Key Terms

  • Marketing Research: The function that links the consumers, customers, and public to the marketer through information. This information is used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process.
  • secondary data: information collected by someone other than the user of the data
  • Qualitative research: A method of inquiry employed in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences but also in market research and further contexts.
  • Secondary Research: This process involves the summary, collation, and synthesis of existing research rather than primary research, where data is collected from subjects or experiments.
  • survey research: information from a predetermined set of questions that is given to a sample and is used to assess thoughts, opinions, and feelings

The Marketing Research Process is comprised of the following steps:

  • Step 1: Problem Definition
  • Step 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem
  • Step 3: Research Design Formulation
  • Step 4: Field Work or Data Collection
  • Step 5: Data Preparation and Analysis
  • Step 6: Report Preparation and Presentation

Step 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem

Step two includes formulating an objective or theoretical framework, analytical models, research questions, hypotheses, and identifying characteristics or factors that can influence the research design. This process is guided by discussions with management and industry experts, case studies and simulations, analysis of secondary data, qualitative research, and pragmatic considerations.

A group of businessmen work on a series of plans that are displayed on an office wall.

Research Planning: Planning involves creating and maintaining a plan.

Step 3: Research Design Formulation

A research design is a framework or blueprint for conducting the marketing research project. It details the procedures necessary for obtaining the required information, and its purpose is to design a study that will test the hypotheses of interest, determine possible answers to the research questions, and provide the information needed for decision making. Decisions are also made regarding what data should be obtained from the respondents (e,g,, by conducting a survey or an experiment). A questionnaire and sampling plan also are designed in order to select the most appropriate respondents for the study. The following steps are involved in formulating a research design:

  • Secondary data analysis (based on secondary research)
  • Qualitative research
  • Methods of collecting quantitative data (survey, observation, and experimentation)
  • Definition of the information needed
  • Measurement and scaling procedures
  • Questionnaire design
  • Sampling process and sample size
  • Plan of data analysis
A man and woman look at a book in a library.

Conducting Secondary Research: Secondary data analysis is one of the steps involved in formulating a research design.

Developing the research plan for collecting information:

The research plan outlines sources of existing data and spells out the specific research approaches, contact methods, sampling plans, and instruments that researchers will use to gather data. This plan includes a written proposal that outlines the management problem, research objectives, information required, how the results will help management decisions, and the budget allocated for the research.

Collecting Data

Data collection is a crucial step in the research process because it enables the generation of insights that will influence the marketing strategy.

Learning Objectives

Construct the rationale of field work or data collection from a marketing research process perspective

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The marketing research process is comprised of six steps: 1. problem definition, 2. development of an approach to the problem, 3. research design formulation, 4. field work or data collection, 5. data preparation and analysis, and 6. report preparation and presentation.
  • Data collection involves a field force or staff that operates either in the field, as in the case of personal interviewing, from an office by telephone, or through mail (traditional mail and mail panel surveys with pre-recruited households).
  • Proper selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of the field force helps minimize data-collection errors.

Key Terms

  • scientific method: The scientific method is a body of techniques for acquiring new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.
  • Data: Data are values of qualitative or quantitative variables belonging to a set of items; Data are typically the results of measurements and can be visualised using graphs or images
  • mall intercept: a survey whereby respondents are intercepted in shopping in malls. The process involves stopping the shoppers, screening them for appropriateness, and either administering the survey on the spot or inviting them to a research facility located in the mall to complete the interview.

The Marketing Research Process is comprised of the following steps:

  • Step 1: Problem Definition
  • Step 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem
  • Step 3: Research Design Formulation
  • Step 4: Field Work or Data Collection
  • Step 5: Data Preparation & Analysis
  • Step 6: Report Preparation & Presentation

Step 4: Field Work or Data Collection

Field work, or data collection, involves a field force or staff that operates either in the field, as in the case of personal interviewing (focus group, in-home, mall intercept, or computer-assisted personal interviewing), from an office by telephone (telephone or computer-assisted telephone interviewing/CATI), or through mail (traditional mail and mail panel surveys with pre-recruited households). Proper selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of the field force helps minimize data-collection errors. In marketing research, an example of data collection is when a consumer goods company hires a market research company to conduct in-home ethnographies and in-store shop-alongs in an effort to collect primary research data.

Soliders sit around a table during a focus group.

Focus Group: Soldiers and their family members participate in focus groups.

Marketing Research is Systematic and Objective

  • Systematic planning is required at all stages of the marketing research process, especially in the data collection step. The procedures followed at each stage are methodologically sound, well documented, and, as much as possible, planned in advance. Marketing research uses the scientific method in that data are collected and analyzed to test prior notions or hypotheses.
  • Marketing research aims to provide accurate information that reflects a true state of affairs and thus, should be conducted impartially. While research is always influenced by the researcher’s philosophy, it should be free from the personal or political biases of the researcher or the management. This is especially important in the data collection phase. The data collected will be analysed and used to make marketing decisions. Hence, it is vital that the data collection process be free of as much bias as possible.

Primary Versus Secondary Research

There are many sources of information a marketer can use when collecting data. The Nielsen Ratings is an audience measurement system that provides data on audience size and the composition of television markets in the United States. The Gallup Polls conduct public opinion polls with its results published daily in the form of data driven news. The U.S Census Bureau, directed by the U.S. Government is the principal agency that is responsible for producing data about American people and the economy. Population, housing and demographic characteristics are gathered to help plan and define transportation systems, police and fire precinct, election districts and schools.

Analyzing Data

Data Analysis is an important step in the Marketing Research process where data is organized, reviewed, verified, and interpreted.

Learning Objectives

Summarize the characteristics of data preparation and methodology of data analysis

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Marketing Research Process is comprised of 6 steps: 1: Problem Definition, 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem, 3: Research Design Formulation, 4: Field Work or Data Collection, 5: Data Preparation and Analysis, 6: Report Preparation and Presentation.
  • Data is carefully edited, coded, transcribed, and verified so it can be properly analyzed during this phase of the research process.
  • Verification ensures that the data from the original questionnaires have been accurately transcribed, while data analysis gives meaning to the data that have been collected.
  • Bias must be avoided when interpreting data because only the results (not personal opinion) should be communicated.

Key Terms

  • data mining: A technique for searching large-scale databases for patterns; used mainly to find previously unknown correlations between variables that may be commercially useful.
  • Marketing Research: The function that links the consumers, customers, and public to the marketer through information. This information is used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process.
  • business intelligence: Any information that pertains to the history, current status or future projections of a business organization.

Overview of the Marketing Research Process:

  • Step 1: Problem Definition
  • Step 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem
  • Step 3: Research Design Formulation
  • Step 4: Field Work or Data Collection
  • Step 5: Data Preparation and Analysis
  • Step 6: Report Preparation and Presentation

Step 5: Data Preparation and Analysis

Analysis of data is a process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of highlighting useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision making. Data analysis has multiple facets and approaches, encompassing diverse techniques under a variety of names in different business, science, and social science domains. Data mining is a particular data analysis technique that focuses on modeling and knowledge discovery for predictive rather than purely descriptive purposes. Marketers use databases to extract applicable information that identifies customer patterns, characteristics and behaviors.

Notes on a dry erase board.

Data Analysis: Taking notes is an important part of data analysis and testing parameters.

Business intelligence covers data analysis that relies heavily on aggregation and focusing on business information. In statistical applications, some people divide data analysis into descriptive statistics, exploratory data analysis (EDA), and confirmatory data analysis (CDA). EDA focuses on discovering new features in the data and CDA focuses on confirming or falsifying existing hypotheses. Predictive analytics focuses on application of statistical or structural models for predictive forecasting or classification. Text analytics applies statistical, linguistic, and structural techniques to extract and classify information from textual sources, a species of unstructured data. All are varieties of data analysis.

A group of people sit around a table during a meeting.

Meeting: Researchers can set up a debriefing meeting to review the analysis.

During this phase of the research process, data is carefully edited, coded, transcribed, and verified in order for it to be properly analyzed. Statistical market research tools are used. The validity of the results is also assessed to confirm how well the data measures what it is supposed to measure. Oftentimes, the research team will arrange a debriefing session with the client to review highlights from the data and brainstorm potential ideas on how the findings can be implemented. This typically happens when a client hires a market research company and they want to remain thoroughly involved in the research process.

A diagram that shows the data analysis outputs for the Illumina BeadChip and BeadXpress reader - heat map, bar plots, and scatter plots.

Data Output: Types of data analysis outputs include a heat map, bar plots, and scatter plots.

Helpful tips to keep in mind during data analysis:

  • Communicate the results.
  • Try to avoid bias when interpreting data.
  • Just because results fail to confirm original hypotheses, does not mean the research results are useless.

Developing Insights and an Action Plan

A successful presentation provides conclusions (based on the insights gathered) that effectively meet the objectives of the research.

Learning Objectives

Identify the characteristics of preparing,presenting and documenting the results of marketing research

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Report Preparation & Presentation is the sixth step in the Marketing Research Process.
  • The entire project should be documented in a written report that addresses the specific research questions identified; describes the approach, research design, data collection, and data analysis procedures adopted; and presents the results and the major findings.
  • The findings should be presented in a comprehensible format so they can be readily used in the decision making process.
  • In addition, an oral presentation should be made to management using tables, figures, and graphs to enhance clarity and impact.

Key Terms

  • Executive Summary: A short document or section of a document that summarizes a longer report or proposal in such a way that readers can rapidly become acquainted with a large body of material without having to read it all.
  • Market Research: The systematic collection and evaluation of data regarding customers’ preferences for actual and potential products and services.

Overview of the Market Research Process:

  • Step 1: Problem Definition
  • Step 2: Development of an Approach to the Problem
  • Step 3: Research Design Formulation
  • Step 4: Field Work or Data Collection
  • Step 5: Data Preparation & Analysis
  • Step 6: Report Preparation & Presentation

Step 6: Report Preparation & Presentation

During the Report Preparation & Presentation step, the entire project should be documented in a written report that addresses the specific research questions identified; describes the approach, the research design, data collection, and data analysis procedures adopted; and presents the results and the major findings. This permanent document is also helpful because it can be easily referenced by others who may not have been part of the research.

The findings should be presented in a comprehensible format so that they can be readily used in the decision making process. In addition, an oral presentation should be made to management using tables, figures, and graphs to enhance clarity and impact.

A man gives a presentation and discusses information on a dry erase board.

Presentation: Report preparation and presentation is the sixth step in the market research process.

A successful presentation will include but is not limited to the following elements:

  • Final conclusions (based on the insights gathered from data collected) that effectively meet the initial objectives of the research
  • Recommendations about how to apply the research
  • Charts, graphs, and visual elements that help showcase important facts and make the presentation easily digestible and memorable

A formal research report presentation typically includes the following:

  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Background
  • Research Objectives
  • Research Methodology
  • Highlights of Fieldwork Data Collected
  • Appendix (including Respondent Screening Instrument and Questionnaire)
  • Findings/Insights
  • Recommendations/Implications and Action Plan