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How to Design Market Research Studies

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  • 0:04 Designing Market…
  • 0:51 Exploratory Research
  • 2:05 Descriptive Research
  • 4:02 Causal
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lynn Doerr

Lynn has worked in various aspects of marketing for many years and has a Master's degree in Marketing Communication.

Market research studies can be categorized as exploratory, descriptive, or causal. This lesson defines the three categories, explains their basic design elements, and provides examples on when to use the different types of research.

Designing Market Research Studies

Every marketer relies on market research to provide information on how to best position and sell a product. This type of research might also be referred to as customer insights, because it allows a company to better understand how customers view their product, their company, or their programs so they have insight on how to better tailor the marketing plan.

Market research is generally divided into three types: exploratory, descriptive, and causal. Let's take a closer look at the definitions, the basics of designing a study, and when to use each type. Many companies hire a market research firm to conduct their research, as they can recruit the participants and provide a research site. Depending on the type of research, participants may even be compensated for their time, so this needs to be considered as an extra expense when planning research.

Exploratory Research

Exploratory research is also known as qualitative market research. The goal is to better understand the situation or behavior you are trying to change and set the scope of your research. This step could start with a literature search to gather more information, then lead into individual interviews with potential customers. Sometimes the research is conducted using a focus group so ideas can be discussed with several individuals at one time.

Let's say you are researching a new flavor for a snack chip. You might look for information on the Internet or research other chip companies (your competitors) to see what flavors are offered and then look for information on which flavors are most successful. The next step can be to identify consumers who love chips and conduct interviews to find out which flavors have the most appeal and which new flavors they might like to see offered.

A focus group is a good way to conduct this research because it allows for open discussion on products and allows for the unique viewpoints of individual participants. During this phase, it is important to ask open-ended questions such as: When do you eat chips? What chips are your favorites and why? The goal is to create discussion and an open exchange of ideas. Once your exploratory research has revealed some specific areas for further research, you're ready to move to a more specific type of market research.

Descriptive Research

Descriptive research is also called quantitative research. This step helps to quantify results with specific measures. For instance, in our chip example, your audience (potential customers) in descriptive research might be asked to rate the different flavors of chips so it is easier to discern which flavors are preferred. This can also be set up with individuals rating different properties of the chip (flavor, texture, crunch, size, and dip-ability). Responses are structured so they can be measured and so they only ask one question at a time. For example, a question about flavor might look like this:

I liked the flavor of the cheese chip:

  1. Strongly agree
  2. Agree
  3. Neutral
  4. Disagree
  5. Strongly Disagree

You don't want to pose a statement that asks about two qualities, such as: I liked the flavor and the crunch of the cheese chip. See the difference? First ask about the flavor of the chip; then ask a second question about the crunch of the chip.

Every answer is counted and attributed to the corresponding response so a value can be assigned. The results might be:

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