Overview of Exploratory, Descriptive & Causal Research in Marketing

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  • 0:03 Purposes of Marketing Research
  • 0:31 What Is Exploratory Research?
  • 1:31 What Is Descriptive Research?
  • 2:41 What Is Causal Research?
  • 3:32 Methods & Errors in Research
  • 5:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reed

Danielle works in digital marketing and advertising. She holds a bachelor's degree in English and an MBA.

In this lesson, we identify and describe the three types of research (exploratory, descriptive, and causal) and their place in marketing research. We then address sampling and non-sampling errors as well as techniques for reducing error.

Purposes of Marketing Research

Have you ever filled out a survey for your favorite company? Do you have a loyalty or rewards card with some stores? Companies collect this information for marketing research. The reason for conducting research is to gather data about current customers and potential customers. The right marketing research helps in major business decision-making, such as product direction, sales cycles, and even sales and acquisitions.

What Is Exploratory Research?

Exploratory research is the initial research into a hypothetical or theoretical idea. This type of research isn't about making final conclusions, but rather gathering general information about a topic. Often in marketing terms, exploratory research is used at the start of a marketing plan or long-term business strategy to see if an idea is viable in any way. Informal approaches can be used for exploratory research. Typical sources are casual conversations with customers or company stakeholders. A survey conducted among current customers about future product ideas is also exploring the concept of new services or goods.

Exploratory research in marketing is constantly being conducted by companies as ideas, concepts, and innovations come to light. As an idea takes shape, other forms of research get conducted. A company often chooses a path to growth because of exploratory research.

What Is Descriptive Research?

Descriptive research attempts to explore and explain information often discovered through exploratory research. When it comes to a company, this could relate to a business purchase, a product type, a service offering, or any other part of the organizational structure pertaining to marketing. Much of marketing analytics is descriptive research. Marketing analytics is the practice of measuring, managing, and analyzing marketing performance to maximize effectiveness and optimize ROI.

Descriptive research is the most commonly used form in marketing. In terms of marketing, focus groups are a descriptive research option because the purpose of these groups is simply to get more information about a set topic, like a product launch. Some of the marketing questions answered by descriptive research include:

  • What are the pain points for our product use?
  • What do users like about our product?
  • What is a fair price point for a product or service?
  • Does a product appeal to a certain target market?
  • What features are most desirable in a set of offerings?

What Is Causal Research?

Causal research, also known as explanatory research, is defined as an attempt to connect ideas to understand cause and effect, so researchers can try to explain what is going on. This type of research has the potential to get to the bottom of deeper issues, such as why products are returned or why a certain target market doesn't understand the service. One variable gets manipulated to see if it changes the outcome. This could be as simple as putting a service in a test market at two different price points to see if purchase rate is highly correlated with price.

In marketing research, one-on-one surveys can also be a form of causal research. For example, one-on-one interviews, which are a personal interview combined with the use of a product, reveal causal relationships.

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