Magazine article Marketing

Market Research Manual: Informed Decisions

Magazine article Marketing

Market Research Manual: Informed Decisions

Article excerpt

Finding out what people think can help you whether you are planning a launch or simply checking up on how your brand is faring.

Many businesses begin with an idea for a product or service and thrive when it proves a hit. But gut instinct about what people want will only take you so far. Sooner or later you will need more detailed information about your target audience.

This is where market researchers come in, talking to consumers and gathering intelligence to help you make the right strategic decisions. Information about what people think allows you to plan accordingly, regardless of the type of activity you are about to embark on.

If you are developing an idea for a product and planning to spend large sums of money on its launch, it is wise to check that your target market is as enthusiastic about it as you are. For example, when Britvic created a range of innovative products recently, it tested them out on its target market to ensure that it invested only in those that proved to have potential.

You might also want to know what you can do to improve the service you offer your customers. MyTravel used research to find out what people look for when booking a trip and to find out where it was underperforming in comparison with its rivals. Similarly, Asda asked shoppers what they really care about to establish how it could boost customer satisfaction.

You can also use research prior to an advertising campaign to discover which creative idea works best - an approach used successfully by companies such as Arla Foods and Guinness.

Consumers' verdicts may not always be welcome and you may have to abandon a cherished project. But that is preferable to pushing ahead with what could prove to be an expensive flop. In some cases, a few tweaks to address consumers' reservations can make the difference between success and failure.

What you can be sure of is that you will be getting an objective view.

'Market research has no vested interest, unlike a lot of marketing disciplines that exist to provide a specific service,' says Simon Lidington, chairman of the Market Research Society.

There are two ways to carry out market research. The quantitative method involves asking a statistically representative sample of consumers specific questions and measuring the responses. This enables you to analyse, for example, the proportion of your sample that would buy the product you are developing, how many are not sure, and how many would definitely have no use for it.

The other technique is qualitative. This approach offers people the chance to describe their reactions in their own words. This means you can find out exactly what they like or dislike about your idea, enabling you to make relevant changes.

Both these methods of research are widely employed; for example, newspapers run polls to find out what people think about various issues, and in politics, parties rely heavily on focus groups to gauge reactions to policy initiatives.

Gathering research

Quantitative information can be gathered from people in the street, by ringing consumers at home or from online or printed surveys. However, for the results to be meaningful, you need to make sure you are asking people who represent your target market: consumers of the right age, gender and level of affluence. The sample also needs to be large enough to provide a statistically meaningful result.

The drawback of this approach is that you will only get answers to the questions you ask. By contrast, talking to people face to face can reveal things that might otherwise never have occurred to you, opening up further opportunities.

When Volkswagen took over the Czech Skoda car brand in 1991, it decided to talk to Skoda's customers to find out what made them want to buy something so unstylish. To its surprise, Volkswagen discovered that Skoda drivers were proud of their choice and enthusiastic about the brand. …

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