Consumer Buying Process

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Consumer Research Methods

Market research is often needed to ensure that we produce what customers really want and not what we think they want. Primary vs. secondary research methods.  There are two main approaches to marketing.  Secondary  research involves using information that others have already put together.  For example, if you are thinking about starting a business making clothes for tall people, you don't need to question people about how tall they are to find out how many tall people exist'"that information has already been published by the U.S. Government.  Primary research, in contrast, is research that you design and conduct yourself.  For example, you may need to find out whether consumers would prefer that your soft drinks be sweater or tarter. Research will often help us reduce risks associated with a new product, but it cannot take the risk away entirely.  It is also important to ascertain whether the research has been complete.  For example, Coca Cola did a great deal of research prior to releasing the New Coke, and consumers seemed to prefer the taste.  However, consumers were not prepared to have this drink replace traditional Coke. Secondary Methods.  For more information about secondary market research tools and issues, please see http://buad307.com/PDF/Secondary.pdf . Primary Methods. Several tools are available to the market researcher'"e.g., mail questionnaires, phone surveys, observation, and focus groups.  Please see http://buad307.com/PDF/ResearchMethods.pdf for advantages and disadvantages of each. Surveys are useful for getting a great deal of specific information.  Surveys can contain open-ended questions (e.g., "In which city and state were you born? ____________”) or closed-ended, where the respondent is asked to select answers from a brief list (e.g., "__Male ___ Female.”  Open ended questions have the advantage that the respondent is not limited to the options listed, and that the respondent is not being influenced by seeing a list of responses.  However, open-ended questions are often skipped by respondents, and coding them can be quite a challenge.  In general, for surveys to yield meaningful responses, sample sizes of over 100 are usually required because precision is essential.  For example, if a market share of twenty percent would result in a loss while thirty percent would be profitable, a confidence interval of 20-35% is too wide to be useful. Surveys come in several different forms.  Mail surveys are relatively inexpensive, but response rates are typically quite low'"typically from 5-20%.  Phone-surveys get somewhat higher response rates, but not many questions can be asked because many answer options have to be repeated and few people are willing to stay on the phone for more than five minutes.  Mall intercepts are a convenient way to reach consumers, but respondents may be reluctant to discuss anything sensitive face-to-face with an interviewer. Surveys, as any kind of research, are vulnerable to bias.  The wording of a question can influence the outcome a great deal.  For example, more people answered no to the question "Should speeches against democracy be allowed?” than answered yes to "Should speeches against democracy be forbidden?”  For face-to-face interviews, interviewer bias is a danger, too.  Interviewer bias occurs when the interviewer influences the way the respondent answers.  For example, unconsciously an interviewer that works for the firm manufacturing the product in question may smile a little when something good is being said about the product and frown a little when something negative is being said.  The respondent may catch on and say something more positive than his or her real opinion.  Finally, a response bias may occur'"if only part of the sample responds to a survey, the respondents' answers may not be representative of the population. Focus groups are useful when the marketer wants to launch a new product or modify an existing one.  A focus group...
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