Hints and tips to explain the importance of market research

If you need to understand the importance of market research, then the chances are that you may be writing a dissertation that includes market research to gather evidence for your research question. If, on the other hand, you are involved in running a business and you may need to know more about it because of that, you also will find this article useful. In it, you will learn:

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Market research involves different factors; these include:

  • Gathering information about a certain market. The information must then be critically analysed. For instance, a shampoo company may wonder whether it would be profitable to create and launch a lotion that is aimed specifically at those that suffer from spotty scalps.
  • Fact finding about customers buying habits from the past, present and potential future. For instance, a company may need to know why a particular brand of conditioner that used to be a leading line now makes a loss.
  • Investigation of the target market. For instance, where do they live, what do they spend and what do they need? This is particularly important because it allows a company to understand where they will sell certain products and what their new products should be.
  • What are the trends of the industry and who are the company’s competitors?

Dissertations are about asking questions. Writing one is your chance to organise, conduct and write an original piece of research. If you are doing an empirical dissertation, then you will need to include data that you’ve conducted or collected yourself. Therefore, understanding how to use market research is an absolute must. Data is made up of secondary sources and primary sources. Both of these can be used for a dissertation or if you run your own business. In order to survive, every business needs the information that market research can provide. This is often why one business survives and another one doesn’t – it can be as simple as using market research to plan your business; that is how important good market research is.

Secondary sources are collections of data or statistics that some other body has collected. These can be really useful as a springboard as they can give you an idea of behavioural patterns and trends. They are not as useful as your own primary resources but they should not be overlooked either. Secondary market research sources can be found in:

  • Public sources. These tend to be statistics collected by the government and local councils. find them online or at public libraries.
  • Commercial sources. These can be very useful but you normally have to pay for them. There is usually a subscription fee attached.
  • Educational sources. Research is constantly being conducted in colleges and universities so don’t overlook this valuable source.

Primary sources are data that you collect yourself. Let’s imagine that your dissertation is looking at a business model for a family history company. The biggest companies offer DNA tests as well as subscriptions to their data but as yet the business that you are researching for your dissertation does not offer this service. The research question would be whether the cost of setting up DNA tests would be profitably viable.

Surveys. Surveys are mostly used when you need to question a lot of people. For instance, in this situation, if you had the subscription list to the family history company, you could send out an email to each customer asking them to complete the form. The questions you would be asking in this instance would be whether people would be likely to take a DNA test. You would also be trying to find out how much they would be likely to pay to take a test. Another useful question would be why they definitely would not take a test.

Before you send out the questionnaire, you need to ensure that:

  1. The purpose of the survey is obvious.
  2. It is simple to fill in.
  3. Once you receive the data back, it will be easy to interpret it.
  4. The questions aren’t ambiguous.
  5. Does it actually measure what it sets out to measure?
  6. If the questionnaire was given to another set of similar people would it generate similar results. In other words, is it consistent?

Although this can be a very useful form of market research it is not without its problems. The main problems being:

  • People often tend to discard surveys when they are sent by email or are asked about over the telephone. The reason is that folks can feel inundated with every single company that they buy from expecting feedback in some form or other. People tend to engage with surveys more when there is a reward at the end of it. As a student, you may be bound by financial restraints so unless you could get the business that you are researching to fund a reward system for people who respond to your survey that is not an option. It does not, however, mean that the survey is not worth doing.
  • So that you can collect the data to a large response, the questions tend to be closed rather than open. This means that you are asking the respondents to answer A.B.C or D. Often their answers do not fall in any of those categories so the information you collect may not be valid. For instance, if we explore the question “Why would you definitely not have a DNA test?” your answers may be;

A – I can’t afford one.

B – I don’t believe it can really help with family history.

C – I’m only interested in following a paper trail.

D – I don’t think enough is known about DNA yet to warrant paying out so much money.

  • The problem here is that there are millions of illegitimate children, adopted children and people that have given their children false information to whom their fathers are. Since DNA tests have become widely available, a lot of secrets that have come to light. In other words, folks might not take DNA tests because they have got something private to hide.
  • Another problem is that you don’t know if people filling the surveys in are taking them seriously or thinking that it is a joke. The same problem arises in the fact that you don’t know if respondents have literacy problems or trouble with their English. All of these situations can change the results of your data and you would not know about it.
  • All in all, though, if you were writing the family history dissertation business model and the company gave you access to their email list, this would be definitely worth doing because you would be communicating with a targeted audience that were already interested in family history. Therefore, you would simply be trying to find out if they would be willing to pay out to get more information about their ancestors. The importance of this market research cannot be overlooked.

Focus Groups. It is worthwhile using focus groups whether you are writing a dissertation or you are running a business. The idea is to get 6 to 8 people together that are of a similar situation to what you are researching. For instance, if you were researching whether people would purchase a lotion for spotty scalps as mentioned earlier, you might have a focus group that included all bald men with spotty scalps. The reason for this being that a spotty scalp may be a visual embarrassment for those without any hair but not so much for people with lots of hair.

You need to create a series of questions to through into the discussion arena to get the talk going. These questions will also bring the discussion back to the topic if it goes off course. If you can get someone to film it or tape it, none of the discussion will be lost. Focus groups are truly important for market research because they highlight aspects of the situation that you might not have considered. For instance, men without hair might say that they are more likely to buy it if it was marketed as a male grooming treatment because of their sensitivity to their lack of hair. Finding out something like that could be the difference between the product being a loss and regularly selling. Of course, further research would have to be done on that aspect but can you see the importance of the exercise?

Interviews. Interviews can be extremely useful because you can monitor what the interviewee thinks about a product or service and also get an idea or why they would or would buy a product. Interviews are best if they are conducted one to one. It is a good idea to have a list of questions that are open ended. In other words, the respondent is not invited to answer yes or no. For instance, if you were researching the family history question, your closed question would be “Would you consider taking a DNA test to further your family history research?” The problem with closed questions is that the answer can simply be “no” and that does not tell you, the researcher what you really want to know. What you really want to know is “what would make you consider taking a DNA test?” Can you see how this would make your interviewee think? It would also gather evidence for the business that you were doing the research for. It would indicate what they would need to do to get customers to spend further money on DNA tests. This is the importance of research; it directs companies to the way to make their customers spend more money thus making the business more profitable.

Observation – There are different ways that observation can be used but if we stick to the family history model then a simple way to use observation would be to set up a room that had five laptops in it. Each laptop would be set on a family history site that had DNA results on it. Before the subjects were allowed to explore the DNA results, they would see a short film that explained what the ethnicity results meant; what fourth cousin matches meant and what shared matches meant. After that, they would be allowed to play around on the family history website that had DNA matches on it and also all the research data for following a paper trail e.g. censuses, birth, death and marriage records and probate.

After an hour of exploring the site, the subjects would be given a questionnaire to fill in. After they have gone, their research history would be monitored to distinguish what had intrigued them more -DNA or the paper trail. It would be then possible to analyse how interested they were in the DNA data. It would also be interesting to compare what the observation study suggested compared with what they answered in the questionnaire. The reason for this is that sometimes, respondents say one thing but act in a different way. This would be very important to your research because people may tell you that they are not really interested in taking a DNA test but if they spent all their time looking at the DNA results for other people, the discrepancy is worth pursuing further.

The problem with market research is that it is fraught with distinctions that can cause misunderstandings; it is too easy to collect information that is wrong and interpreting data is also like stepping through a minefield as it can so easily be a mistake. Below is a checklist to ensure you avoid these types of errors. You need to read this list carefully because it could mean the difference between your dissertation offering up questionable research or even your business investing heavily in a new product that gives you nothing but bankruptcy. Market research is indeed important in both cases.

  • Make sure you understand the difference between quantitative research and qualitative research. Quantitative offers evidence in numbers e.g. statistics, whereas qualitative investigates beliefs and attitudes. For instance, it would be no use knowing how many people had a public family tree if you needed to understand why certain people would never take a DNA test for a family history site. You would need to use qualitative research to understand their attitudes on the subject. In other words, looking at statistics of how many public family trees there were would yield absolutely nothing but interviewing people and asking them why they are so against DNA tests might lead you to discover that people had watched too many cop shows where folks were fitted up with their DNA. In reality, they would love to have their DNA taken but it was pure ignorance of the situation that caused them fear and thus prevented them from having a test. Can you see how this would empower the marketing department? If they discovered that people weren’t buying a product because of false fear they could make an advertisement or send out a sales email stating the truth. This highlights the importance of research because unless we understand consumers we can’t offer them what they need.
  • Check that you are using the best type of market research that your dissertation research question requires. This is the same if you are doing research for your business. If you are not sure, ask other people. Get feedback on the type of market research that you are considering.
  • Go over all your research material before you start your actual research. If you have a set of questionnaires, do a test run to ensure that they are not confusing people.
  • Once you have finished your research and you are interpreting your data; check it thoroughly. Are you placing emphasise on anything that is personal to you and perhaps looking at the results from a subjective point of view instead of an objective point of view?

Doing market research is not easy whether you are doing it for a dissertation or for business purposes. However, it is an all important aspect of both. Hopefully, you will have picked up some tips while reading this article but if it has caused you to feel that because it is such an important subject that you need help, you don’t need to worry. We have a team of research experts that can help you with your research. We also offer dissertation writing, essay writing, letter writing, speech writing, editing and proof reading too. If you now understand the importance of market research and you want us to help you, you simply have to get in touch. We are a fully confidential service and we look forward to hearing from you.

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