“Without data, you're just another person with an opinion.”
- Edward Deming
Having an opinion is great, but when it comes to business, having a more objective approach would undoubtedly be of use, don't you think?
Consumer research is that objective means to an end — the end being a ‘delighted customer’. But how could a consumer experience delight? Collecting data makes it easy to understand what could delight the consumer. But, the sheer number of consumers in a market makes it impossible to collect relevant data with just one fixed method. Using multiple research methods allows you to cross-validate and verify findings to make informed decisions regarding your business.
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For now, let's dive into two types of consumer research methods: Primary Research and Secondary Research.
A) Primary research
Primary research involves collecting data yourself, i.e. through first-hand studies. It is the key to data collection because researchers get to determine their sample size, set desired objectives, and have absolute control over the questions asked.
A few things to consider before conducting primary research
- Setting goals and objectives - Before conducting consumer behaviour research, it is important to set clear long and short-term goals and objectives. This can help you ascertain the relevant results and insights for your brand.
- Target market - “Who will you interview? Where will your survey be circulated?” To get relevant data, narrowing down your target audience and the sample size is crucial.
- Clarity - To reduce the likelihood of the respondent being confused, it is imperative to ask clear and concise questions.
- Total time taken - Respondents have to invest time into answering questions, and who likes wasting time? As the researcher, the time taken by the respondent to answer all questions needs to be taken into account. Respondents being bored or hastily answering questions can derive improper results.
What are a few ways to conduct primary research?
1. In-depth interviews -
No need to be nervous! These are not job interviews. But they are interviews conducted over the phone or face to face. Consumer behaviour research interviews are one-on-one Q&A sessions to collect a large amount of information from a small sample. That means this is an entirely no-stakes scenario (at least for the interviewee.)
Things to remember when conducting an in-depth interview:
- An appropriate introduction - I know we dread introductions. But how else would you break the ice with someone you know little about but have to speak with for over 30 minutes? With this icebreaker, you don't just introduce yourself; you also introduce the topic at hand and thank the interviewee for taking the time to connect with you.
- Be engaging and interactive - An interview that isn't engaging and interactive can get boring and a bored interviewee can affect your data, so the conversation must be as interactive and engaging as possible.
- Flexibility in structure - Since each person you interview is unique, there is no fixed way to conduct an interview. The flow of questions should be switched from person to person while still staying on track and achieving the research objectives.
- Create insight - Consumer insight is fundamental to understanding consumer actions, expectations and experiences. Once you have introduced yourself and have asked more generalised questions, a researcher must ask questions that create deeper insight through dialogue.
- Open-ended questions - Research questions should be open-ended to allow the interviewee room to elaborate. This furthers your understanding of the consumer's decision-making process.
We are sure there is not one person reading this who has never filled out a survey, but why is there a need to fill out these forms? The answer is simple, consumer research typically has a large sample size, making it practically impossible to interview everybody. This is where a survey comes in handy. Usually conducted online, surveys allow the respondent to answer pre-written questions.
What are a few things to remember while preparing a survey?
- Ask multiple choice questions, but do not ask multiple questions as one
- Include rating scales (Eg. Rate satisfaction from 1 to 10)
- Ask questions that accomplish your goal
- Add Yes and No questions
- Avoid biassed phrasing
- Ask open-ended questions that aren't highly loaded
- Conduct a pilot survey to test the survey questions' effectiveness before forwarding it to masses
All of this helps create a survey that is easy to answer, less time-consuming, and most importantly not dull!
Similar to hidden camera shows like “Just for Laughs” or “Impractical Jokers”, observational research tries to elicit a genuine reaction from its participants (without pranking them).
Example - Retailers use this observation method to determine what section of their store gets more attention, thus helping them determine the price of their shelf space.
Although time-consuming, this mode of consumer behaviour research leaves room for slight bias because it seeks to record real-time observations. This research method only answers consumer behaviour ‘how’ and not the ‘why’.
4. Focus groups
No, this isn’t a group of highly focused individuals, but a group of 6 to 10 individuals with similar traits invited to be part of a consumer panel. They are asked questions that are meant to dive deeper into their perceptions as consumers. Focus groups are used to gain deeper insight into particular topics through group interaction.
B) Secondary research
Unlike primary research, secondary research entails using data collected by someone else, i.e. pre-existing or already existing studies. Census Data is the best example of secondary research data since it is collected by the government and typically used for research purposes.
When can you use secondary data?
Suppose you have to study the online consumer behaviour of your brand; chances are, there are similar consumer behaviour research papers analysing the consumer behaviour towards online shopping of another brand. These reports can be used to augment the findings of your study.
What are some sources of secondary data?
- Published sources- articles, journals, government records
- Research papers
- News reports
- Websites and blogs
Since every research is unique in itself, chances are you won't find an answer to the research questions you propose through just secondary data. A good researcher understands how to maintain a balance between both primary and secondary data to optimise results.
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