Information collection methods
Despite the huge variety of research methods and techniques, the general scheme of activities implemented in the framework of market research, simple and clear enough. The main sources of obtaining marketing information are:
- Interviews and surveys;
- Registration (observation);
- Expert evaluation.
Interviews (surveys) – finding out people’s position or getting a reference from them on some issue. Interviews are the most common and most important form of data collection in marketing. Approximately 90% of surveys use this method. Surveys can be oral (face-to-face) or written.
In a written survey, participants are given survey forms (questionnaires) that they must fill out and give to their intended recipients. Typically, written surveys use closed-ended questions that are answered by selecting one of the listed questions. Usually, in written surveys, the questionnaire is sent to the target audience, via e-mail, postal mail, or facsimile. The main disadvantage limiting the use of this method is the long period and low return rate (3% on average) of completed questionnaires.
Face-to-face and telephone surveys are commonly referred to as interviews.
Telephone interviews are a relatively cheap method of conducting surveys of any level of accuracy from the point of view of sample building (the geographical location of respondents is not of fundamental importance from the point of view of the cost of the interview). This method is applicable only in quantitative research. However, there are objective disadvantages of using this method:
- not quite a complete control of the respondent’s understanding and sincerity;
- there is no possibility to show visual materials (samples, cards with answers options);
- unrealizability of long interviews (it is difficult to hold the attention of the interlocutor for more than 15 minutes over the phone);
- in cities with an insufficient level of telephonization it is impossible to get a representative sample.
Face-to-face interviews can be formalized or informalized.
In a formalized interview there is a specific scheme for conducting the survey (usually a questionnaire containing pre-prepared clear formulations of questions and thought-out patterns of responses to them). Formalized interview loses most of its meaning if the answers of respondents are not analyzed in terms of their social and demographic (industrial and geographic) characteristics. Therefore, it necessarily involves filling out a “passport,” where the data about each respondent is entered, the need for which is dictated by the research program. Such interviews are conducted on the street, in stores, at public events, at the place of residence of respondents (door-to-door surveys), etc. Formalized questionnaires are mostly used in quantitative surveys. The main disadvantages of this method are: relatively high cost and low geographical coverage.
Informalized interviews are a specific method of collecting information, in which there are only subject and purpose. There is no specific scheme for conducting the survey. It gives an opportunity to reveal deep motives of consumers’ actions, to study both rational and irrational reasons of their purchasing behavior. In practice, non-formalized interviews are used when conducting qualitative research. Informalized interviews can be individual or group.
Individual unformalized interviews are conducted with respondents one-to-one in a form of dialogue, where the respondent has an opportunity to express their detailed opinions about the problem under study. We can distinguish such forms of individual non-formalized interviews as in-depth interviews and hall – tests.
In-depth interviews are a series of individual interviews on a given topic, conducted according to a discussion guide. The interview is conducted by a specially trained interviewer of high qualification, who has a good knowledge of the topic, technique and psychological techniques of conducting a conversation.
Hall – tests are personal semi-formalized interviews in a special room. As a rule, rooms in libraries, stores, halls of administrative buildings, etc. are used. The respondent and the interviewer sit down at a table, and the interview takes place in a structured conversation. The need for a hall – test is usually caused by one of several reasons:
- testing bulky samples that are inconvenient to carry around the apartment or there is no certainty that the apartment will find an opportunity to conduct the interview under normal
- testing is limited by the number of samples;
- use of special equipment (e.g., TV-video) to demonstrate the material being tested;
- the interview is conducted in places where potential respondents congregate, but it is complicated and not suitable for “on foot” conversations.
Observation (registration) is a form of marketing research, with the help of which a systematic, planned study of the behavior of an object or subject is carried out. Observation, unlike a survey, does not depend on the willingness of the observed object to report information. Observation is a process of collecting and recording events or special moments related to the behavior of the object under study, either openly or hidden from the observed. The subject of observation can be the properties and behavior of individuals; the movement of things, goods, etc. A disadvantage of observation is the inability to identify the opinions, perceptions, knowledge of people. Therefore, in practice, observation is usually used in conjunction with other research methods.
Experiment is the study of the influence of one factor on another while controlling extraneous factors. Experiments are divided into laboratory which takes place in an artificial environment (product test) and field which takes place in real conditions (market test). The main disadvantages of this method are significant cost and duration, which significantly limits the use of this method in practical research.
Panel is a repetitive collection of data from the same group of interviewees at equal intervals of time. Thus, a panel is a type of continuous sampling. It allows you to record changes in the observed values, characteristics. Panel survey is used when studying the opinions of consumers of a particular group over a period of time, when their needs, habits, tastes, claims are determined. The disadvantages of using panels are: “mortality” of the panel, which manifests itself in gradual refusal of participants to cooperate or switch to another consumer category, and “panel effect”, which consists in conscious or unconscious changes in the behavior of participants under prolonged control.
Expert evaluation is an assessment of the processes under study by qualified specialists – experts. Such assessment is especially necessary when it is impossible to obtain unmediated information about any process or phenomenon. In practice, the most commonly used methods for expert evaluations are delphi-method, brainstorming and synectic method.
Delphi method is a form of expert questioning, in which their anonymous answers are collected in several rounds and a group evaluation of the process under study is obtained through familiarization with intermediate results.
The method of brainstorming consists in the uncontrolled generation and spontaneous interweaving of ideas by participants in a group discussion of a problem. On this basis, chains of associations emerge, which can lead to unexpected solutions to the problem.
Synthesis is considered a method with high creative potential. The idea of the method is to gradually alienate the original problem by constructing analogies with other areas of knowledge. After the multi-step analogies, a quick return to the original problem is made.