Marketers use marketing research to find answers to various questions related to market dynamics, business environment and consumer behaviour. For this a formal research design plan is created by marketers. But some marketers conduct research without formal plan as well. For example, a hotel owner who asks returning customers what was their experience during their stay at his hotel, is conducting a research without a formal research design.
The major component of research design is to decide which type of marketing research will be best suited for desired objective. Marketing Research can be classified into three categories depending upon the objectives of the research.
Exploratory research is used in cases where the marketer has little or no understanding about the research problem due to lack of proper information. For example, a marketer has heard about social media marketing techniques which are employed by their competitors with great success but he is not familiar with using these for his products/services.
He needs to use exploratory market research to gain/discover insights about this situation. Thus when the goal of the marketer is to precisely formulate problems, clear concepts, gain insights, eliminate impractical ideas and form hypotheses then exploratory research is used.
Exploratory research follows and unstructured format and makes use of qualitative techniques, secondary research and experts opinions. For example, the marketer from the previous case can use books, syndicated research, case studies, focus groups, expert interviews and survey techniques to conduct exploratory research.
The results of exploratory research can’t be used for marketing decisions in most cases at least not directly. Then the question arises why to do exploratory research in the first place? Well the answer is the core goal of exploratory research is to equip marketers with enough information to facilitate marketers plan a format research design correctly. For example by conducting exploratory research the marketer can find out that the competition is using popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to reach target consumers effectively and successfully engaging customers with the brand directly. Now with this information he can plan a formal research design to test his hypothesis.
Descriptive research is used to find accurate answers of questions like:
- Who are users of my products / services?
- How they are using my products / services?
- What proportion of population uses my products / services?
- What is the future demand for my products / services?
- Who are all my competitors?
Thus descriptive research is used to explain, monitor and test hypotheses created by marketers to help them find accurate answers. Due to this reason descriptive research is rigid, well structure and well planned and uses quantitative techniques like questionnaires, structured interviews, data analysis etc.
For example, the marketer from previous case and use descriptive research to find out if he also starts using social media marketing techniques for promoting his products and services then:
- How many of his current customers will be attracted to them?
- How many new customers can be engaged using social media?
- How much time, effort and money will be involved in this activity?
- What will be the predicted return on investment (RoI)?
- Will he be able to attract competitor’s customers?
Causal research is used by marketers to find cause and effect relationship of variables. It is also sometimes referred as “If.. Then…” method. In this type of research, the marketer tries to understand the effects of manipulating independent variable on other dependent variable.
Causal research uses field and laboratory experimentation techniques to achieve its goals. This research is used by marketers mainly to predict and test hypotheses.
Let’s take some test cases where causal research can be used:
- What will happen to sale of my product if I change the packaging of the product?
- What will happen to sale of my product if I change the design of the product?
- What will happen to sale of my product if I change the advertising?
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