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Overview of the Types of Market Research Studies

Which is the most appropriate, quickest, and cost effective.

There are numerous factors that influence the choice of a particular research instrument, but in some cases the choice is made for you. For example, the only way to get feedback on the taste of a potential new menu item from your restaurant is to serve it to the respondents hot out of the kitchen.
But the options increase dramatically if you are trying to get feedback on the radio ad for your mattress blowout sale. An interviewer could approach the study participants with a portable audio player, or let the respondent listen to the ad during a telephone interview, or perhaps including an audio clip in a online survey would be sufficient.

Reveal Research will suggest the most appropriate, quickest, and cost effective data collection method to meet the objectives of your research study, but it is always good to be aware of all the options.
Described below are the most commonly employed techniques for gathering marketing research data, along with their respective pros and cons.

Surveys and Questionnaires:

In-person surveys are scripted one-on-one interviews typically conducted in high-traffic locations such as shopping malls. They allow you to exhibit product samples, present packaging or show advertising while gathering immediate feedback. In-person surveys generate high response rates, but they are costly due to the time and labor involved.

Telephone surveys are less expensive than in-person interviewing, but its response rates are not nearly as high as relentless telemarketing has deteriorated consumer willingness to participate.

Mail surveys are a relatively inexpensive way to reach a broad audience. They're much cheaper than in-person and phone surveys, but usually generate very low response rates and take weeks to conduct. Another pitfall of mail-in surveys is the lack of control on how well the respondent will follow survey instructions, resulting in less reliable data than in-person or telephone interviews conducted by a trained interviewer.

Online surveys are least expensive, provide quality data as rigorous validation options are available, are the fastest way of data collection, and allow presentation of graphics, sound, and video to the respondent. The drawback is that only people with internet connection can participate.

Focus Groups:

In focus groups, a trained moderator uses a loosely scripted series of questions or topics to lead a discussion among a group of 8 to 12 people that usually lasts for one to two hours. These sessions take place at neutral locations, usually at facilities with an observation room behind one-way mirrors. Sessions are recorded on video for in-depth analysis and report writing at a later time.
Focus groups are primarily used as a starting point for further research or to generate ideas and are well suited for topics dealing with ‘feelings’ and ‘attitudes regarding a particular research subject.
Focus groups research is not cheap due to costs of facility rental, professional moderation, recruitment of and monetary incentives for the participants.

Personal Interviews (In-Depth Interviews):

Personal interviews are used when insight is required from high-level, hard-to-reach respondents and deal with exceptionally specialized topics. Similar to focus groups, personal interviews are based on unstructured and open-ended questions. They usually happen at the participant’s home or place of work, last for about an hour and are recorded.
The biggest advantages of personal interviews are that they enable a researcher to examine the respondent’s environment and allow for exploration of sensitive subjects.
Other similarities to a focus group are the high cost factor, and due to lack of standardized questionnaire and low sample, collected data is not statistically reliable.

Mystery Shopping (Secret Shopper):

Mystery Shopping is the practice of using ‘shoppers’ who have been specially briefed to anonymously evaluate customer service, operations, merchandising, product quality, and in special cases, employee integrity.
It is an invaluable tool for all B2C companies that delivers a snapshot of how you or your competitors are perceive by the customers. It can be deployed quickly and for the volume and quality of information it generates, it is a bargain.

A variation on this type of research is Tele Shopping and it enables evaluation of staff performance over the phone. Purchases, warranty claims, complaints, or general inquirers calls can be placed and adherence to procedures, demeanor, and product or service knowledge can be thorough and objectively evaluated.

It should also be noted that data and observations from Mystery Shopping are great starting points for training development and employee performance reviews.

Observation Research:

When you observe people in action by videotaping them in stores, at work or at home, you can observe how they buy or use a product. This gives an accurate picture of product usage habits and shopping patterns, since responses to surveys or focus groups are sometimes at odds with people's actual behavior or when it is difficult for respondents to recall specific details that we are interested in.
It should be noted that due to privacy laws and morality issues this method of collecting information is seldom implemented without prior written consent of those being observed.

Field Trials:

Placing a new product in selected stores or markets to test customer response under real selling conditions will help you make product modifications, adjust prices or improve packaging before a full scale rollout.
Field trails are expensive and difficult to implement since they require cooperation from the retailers. Another downside is that your competition will also become aware of your new product.

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See Also:
Can you afford not to do market research?
Why hire a professional market research firm?
Measuring and improving customer satisfaction

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