This video shows how a question-oriented focus group is conducted

This video shows how a question-oriented focus group is conducted. Specifically, the focus group aims to test a sauce flip top. Hence, it is a good example of focus group for market research.

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What is secondary data and where is located?

Secondary data is usually defined in opposition to primary data. The latter is directly obtained from first-hand sources by mean of questionnaire, observation, focus group or in-depth interviews, while the former refers to data collected by someone other than the user. In other words, data that has already been collected for some other purpose. Yet, such data may be very useful for your own research purpose.

A review of the literature accounts for many varieties of classification for secondary data (Bryman 1989, Dale et al. 1988; Robson, 202). Suffice it to mention Kervin classification (1992) who distinguish between raw data and compiled data. Regarding the former one, there has been little if any processing, while the latter one has received some form of selection or summarizing. Among the first type of secondary data it is worth mentioning those coming from organizations´ databases, organizations´ websites or newspaper, among other. Second type, compiled data, refers to for instance, government publications, books, journals or industry statistic and reports, among others.

There would be a third type of secondary data that is in between both raw and compiled, they were collected via survey strategy. For instance, census of population, continuous and regular surveys such as government family spending, labor market trends, employee attitude surveys, etc.; and last but not least, ad hoc surveys, i.e. those non-regular basis survey made by some organization.

Where is secondary data located? Your public or university library is still a great place to find relevant data for any project, especially with regard to books or encyclopedias. But the truth is that in the so called Internet society, a lot of worthy material is usually available via Internet or, at least, the references to such material. The use of key words may sometimes be enough to come across relevant secondary data via the most common search engine. However, the breadth of information on the net may be unmanageable or, what is worse, you may waste a lot of time on the always difficult task of discriminating between what is a bogus or a true research

In this case it is highly recommendable to do customized searches via specific sources. Below are three kinds of sources that may help you on that venture:

1. Public statistical providers. Identify the main provider of statistical information, which is usually dependent on the government. Bureau of the Census of US or Central Statistical Office in the case of Poland. Find here a list of National Statistical Offices web-sites. The you have other international statistic offices such as Eurostat, where you will find social and economic indicators from all over the European Union members; as well as worldwide organizations such as OECD.Stat which includes data and metadata for OECD countries and selected non-member economies; or United Nations Statistic.

2. Specialized search engines. To use these you need to define your general subject area prior to your search. For instance, such database as Econlit count with their own search engine that focus only on economics and management publications, or The Financial Times Historical Archive in case of financial studies. Although the access to some of them may be for a fee, note that your own institution or University could perfectly be a subscriber. It is also worth mentioning Google Scholar. Its use is also becoming quite common within academia. It is not specialized in any particular subject, but discriminate efficiently among academics and non-academics publications. Finally, social networks are also shifting the way secondary data and review of literature is understood. Academia.edu is probably one of the most known and worldwide used academic networks. Counting with its own search engine, you can find not only relevant publications but also other scholars and professionals working on your topic.

3. Organizations related to your research topic. Finally, note that ample and relevant information may be obtained from organizations related to your research topic. Imaging your research focuses intellectual property issues. Visiting World Intellectual Property Organization is a must for you. The same would happen with the World Health Organization if you address health related issues. Equally when the focus is on a specific industry. Every industry normally counts with its own national and/or international organization. Euromines for minig, World Tourism Organization for the touristic industry. Should you happen to be interested on working rights, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) website and, concretly, its global index report is an interesting source for you. Note that your topic, especially when is very specific, may not have any organization related. It may be due to two main reasons that should make you think over. First, your topic is not enough relevant and then you should consider another one. Second, your topic refers to a very new phenomenon and the interest lays on its emerging nature (Exploratory approach would be the most convenient for you)

Reference list

Bryman, A. (2004). Research methods and organization studies (Vol. 20). Routledge.

Dale, A., Arber, S., & Procter, M. (1988). Doing secondary analysis (pp. 15-18). London: Unwin Hyman.

Kervin, J. B. (1992). Methods for business research. HarperCollinsPublishers.

Robson, C. (2002). Real world research: A resource for social scientists and practitioner-researchers (Vol. 2). Oxford: Blackwell.

Saunders, Mark NK, et al. Research Methods For Business Students, 5/e. Pearson Education India, 2011.

What is a market research interview?

What does first spontaneously come to your mind when listen the word “interview”? May be a conversation between a journalist and a relevant personage on television? May be a job interview? Although an interview for market research may have many things in common with a job interview, there are a number of particularities to bear in mind. A market reserch interview is a purposeful discussion between two or more people (Kahn and Cannel, 1957) Bellow you can see what are the essentials of an interview.

1. Open-ended questions. Unlike in a questionnaire, the interviewee is not forced to choose among a set of options like bellow:

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neither agree nor disagree
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

On the contrary, the interviewee has absolute freedom to answer and does not need to stick to any preset categories. Actually, this is the essence and advantage of such technique, i.e. the possibility to obtain a spontaneous and non-conditioned answer. Some of examples are:

  • “Tell me about your relationship with your supervisor”
  • “How do you see your future?”
  • “What is the purpose of government?”
  • “Why did you choose that answer?”

3. Representation. When doing a research on trainers shoes consumptions, you must interview young people, adults and elder, or whatever other relevant categorization. It is going to assure a correct representation of the phenomena. Take into account that representation does not imply representativeness. When applying interviews in your research, the sample is usually low, 15 or 20 cases is enough. But these figures are insufficient to do inferences. On the contrary, other techniques like survey are precisely designed for reliable inferences.

4. Interaction. As well as other qualitative techniques as focus group, interaction is both the main advantage and handicap. On the one hand, the direct and close interaction interviewer-interviewee allows a deeper understanding. However, the way interviewer behaves may affect the answers. How do should behave? This question will be answer in future posts, but here is enough to say that a good interviewer must be neutral and refrain from giving his or her personal opinion.

Reference

Kahn, R. L., & Cannell, C. F. (1957). The dynamics of interviewing: theorie, technique, and cases. Cited in Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009
Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.
VALLES, M. (2002). Entrevistas Cualitativas, CIS, Cuadernos Metodológicos nº 32S, Madrid. Trabajo personal de lectura y comprensión Trabajo personal para obtener informaciones de diversas fuentes Trabajo personal de análisis y síntesis.

How to design a qualitative research?

“A research design is a plan for collecting and analyzing evidence that will make it possible for the investigator to answer whatever questions he or she has posed” (Ragin, 1994, p. 1919) This definition leads to a number of steps that every researcher must follow:

1º Formulate a research question. Every inquiry always starts by a question. This question represents certain problem. “Why unemployment is higher in southern countries than in northern countries?”Why my company sales have dropped over the last years?” As it was covered in a previous post, research questions are normally headed by a interrogative particles like “what is”, “what type”, “how frequent”, “what are the causes”, “what are its consequences”, “what are people´s”, etc.

2º Secondly, you must describe how you are going to collect the information required to answer the research question. Concretely, you should account for the techniques to be applied and sampling. Regarding the former one, think over which techniques best applied for you, interviews? focus group?, observation? (Have a look here to those posted earlier) On the other hand sampling is concerned with the selection of a subset of individuals from within a statistical population. Bear in mind that such qualitative techniques as interviews or focus group do not require representativeness like survey does. In other words, the number of cases selected doesn´t allow doing generalizations to the whole population.

3º Finally, every research design should include a plan for analyzing data. If a quantitative design would likely include such analysis techniques as statistical test, absolute and relative frequencies, graphics or tables, a qualitative one generally deals with such techniques as categorizations, summaries, ranking of relevance (see here further info about categorizations here) However, take into account that in some cases, data obtained by mean qualitative techniques may be quantify. Actually, there are software as CAQDAS or Sonal (the latter is a free software) specially set to do it.

References

Flick, U. (2009) An introduction to qualitative research Sage Publications Limited

Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009

Ragin, C. C. (1994). Introduction to qualitative comparative analysis. The comparative political economy of the welfare state, 299, 300-9.

Why qualitative research? (Case study and solution)

The qualitative approach within the market research industry is of increasing importance. Why this approach is required in many occasions?

Tempranillo varietal wine bottle and glass, sh...

Tempranillo varietal wine bottle and glass, showing colour Shot with Nikon D70s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CASE STUDY¹. Imaging your company want to export Spanish wine to Poland. In this country, it is well known that either beer or vodka are more popular drink than wine, but nothing is clear about the Polish delight in wine, and even less in Spanish wine. For this reason, the company has contacted a market research agency and they plan to develop a telephone survey of a Polish population representative sample. Results show that just 10% of population drinks more than one glass of wine a month, instead of the 20% in other eastern European countries. Also, results show that the consumption of wine is less common in the group between 25 and 35 years old. The researcher seems to have a clear marketing strategy.

But something important is still up in the air. How to address this population? A qualitative approach has complemented the quantitative data by mean a number of focus groups in Warsaw. The idea of the research is gathering at least eight people between 25 and 35 years old that do not consume wine usually and another group of eight people at the same age who consume wine at least once a month. Questions as “habits of alcohol consumption in general”, “willingness to increase wine consumption”, “reasons to not consume” were asked. Below you can see some of the sentences that were listened to in the discussions:

“…I do not drink wine because I never know what kind of wine goes with each food…”

“…I have a feeling that wine is more for old people, and I feel young…”

“I do prefer to support Polish industry of vodka and beer”

“…yeah! and also for high standard of living people, I feel that beer is more…how to say…more akin to my people”

“…bottles information are not translated into polish so I do not even know where this wine is from”

“…I get drunk too fast! beer is more kind of easy-going…”

“…I really like wine but all my friends prefer beer so… I don´t want to be a weirdo when go to a party…”

QUESTION: WHAT MAKES THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH DIFFERENT FROM QUANTITATIVE ONE?

________________________________________________________________________________________

Solution

The quantitative approach is very important to quantify the reality. The representative percentage of wine-consumers in Poland or the frequency of consuming is unobtainable but by mean questionnaire or statistics. Ad hoc questionnaire may help us also to understand opinions and attitudes of people toward your product by mean opinion scales as well as including some open-ended questions.

However, three factors make this approach inappropriate when investigator sought a more detailed opinion:

1. Time: especially in phone questionnaires, the interviewees feel generally in hurry either by the surveyor or by him/herself. On the contrary, the more calm and tranquil atmosphere provided by qualitative methods as interview or focus group, encourages a major commitment and engagement.

2. Interaction: while the interaction in quantitative methods in occasions does not even exist or is limited to a phone conversation, in the qualitative one, the number of interaction increases exponentially, allowing at the same time a major capacity to adjust questions and improvising new ones as the interviews progress. In the case of the focus group, the interaction is produced also among the members of the group which represent a great advantage of this technique, since many of the most profound opinions we have are just seen clearly by ourselves after discussing with others.

3. Depth of the analysis: quantitative approach usually deals with countable behaviors or resources: number of wine bottles sold in Poland last year, number of wine glass per week, etc. it hardly allow researcher gets know about emotions, values and beliefs. Making use of the iceberg metaphor, focus group, interview, but also the analysis of comments in forums or just graffiti in a wall expresses better than nothing our deepest view of the world.

Finally: critical reflection for a organization manager: What values do your brand transmit? Is your organization media strategy connected efficiently with your buyers? What is more, is your organization media strategy connected with your potential market?  Just when a company reach to understand its target´s deepest and detailed opinions, values and beliefs, the marketing and communication strategies implemented may cause a truly impact on the sales.

References

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.
Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.
Silverman, D. (2011). Interpreting qualitative data. Sage Publications Limited.
1 This case is not real, although some of the sentences were taken from real cases

Getting familiar with the main research techniques for market research (Exercise 1)

As one semester student of qualitative method for market research (MR) you must bear in mind that attending this course is unlikely to make you an expert in this discipline. It takes years to become a professional of market research industry¹. However, both if you want to join this exciting career or if you just want to make use of MR to fundament your future decisions as manager, the content of this semester it is going to help you to get familiar with this industry and at most to allow you a major expertise in one specific technique.

This post has been designed as a initial step to get familiar with some of the existing MR technniques², before further explanations on the particularities of each (bellow some of them are linked to Wikipedia, so that you can meanwhile obtain further info on your own).

Please divide the bellow techniques into qualitative and quantitative. Furthermore, as online research is becoming more and more relevant, try to do the same between the online and offline techniques. The result should be taxonomy of four quadrants: quadrant 1, online qualitative techniques; quadrant 2, online quantitative; quadrant 3, offline qualitative, quadrant 4: offline quantitative:

  1. Online ethnography
  2. Visual data
  3. Telephone questionnaire
  4. Online quesitonnaire
  5. Online interview
  6. In-depth interview
  7. Self-administrated questionnaire
  8. E-mail questionnaire
  9. Online focus group
  10. Participant observation
  11. Secondary data
  12. Content analysis
  13. Focus group
  14. Ethnography
  15. Semi-structured interview

To see solution click on the imagePresentación1

¹ Many organization account for the today´s level of profesionality of this industry. For instance, the World association for market, social and opinion research

² note that technnique and method are frequently used as synonimus. However, it must be no-tticed that there are a slightly difference. For further details you can visit this site

Technology, social change and the need of market research

We tend to think that the technology is a quite recent development, but the truth is that it comes from the beginning of the human history. It has always been a crucial factor for the social change and for the change of our lives. Inclusive relatively simple inventions such as stirrup.220px-EnduranceStirrup

“This invention, that allows a horse riders remain firmly seated in the saddle, produced a major social change. This medieval innovation led to a completely new form of attack-combat on horseback in which a fast-moving warrior could stab or chop his opponent without fear of falling to the ground as ungentlemanly. This new form of struggle, in turn, brought new demands to the fighters. A free citizen simply could not take up arms and be fit for war. The new combat technique required many years of training, not to mention the huge expense in horses, assistants and equipment. Thus was born a social aristocracy-new-class of knights-and with it a new set of role models to the needs of affluent lifestyle of a warrior on horseback. “Few inventions have been so simple as the stirrup,” writes Lynn White Jr. (1962, p38) “but few have had so catalytic an influence on history”

What reality lies beneath this story which is relevant for market research? The rapid social change produced by new technology challenges our society as a whole, our society´s organizations and our everyday life. The primitive society was simply organized: tribes, low ranking (hierarchical), barter base economies and perhaps some differences regarding gender and age. As new technologies were emerging, as the example of stirrup, society is getting more and more complex, more hierarchical.globalization_b_1293566053-150x150

Spinning jenny, steam engine and many other inventions encouraged strong changes. Industrial revolution affected greatly European and American society. The rapidness of the changes over the last two centuries has increased exponentially. The estates of the middle age gave way to social class from the Marxist viewpoint. In recent decades, the Capitalism-communism antagonism gave way to the so called “globalization”: international integrating, multinational corporations, the dissolution of “old” social inequalities from the industrial society; the emerging subcultures, lifestyle and way of living, consumption, the rise of the Internet and the “network society”, but also climate change.

As a result, socities become more complex and all the countries over the world become economically and culturally interdependent. The 2008 crash in US eventually led and still lead to recession in most Western countries, any ecological catastrophe in Asia could eventually affect us; immigrants from all over the world habit the more and more dense urban areas. And no society, no organization can scape from this reality. Governments, countries, but also companies and other organizations, as well as families and ourselves are constantly challenged by these rapid changes.

So, why is market research needed? As a manager, researchers or consultant, the rapid social changes will constantly chalSNA_segmentlenge your organization. We are bombarded with messages that society keeps changing and technology keeps developing faster and faster, making extant professional knowledge obsolete at the speed of lighting. In conclusion, change is ongoing, and every issue in a company is exposed to change or the threat of change in the near future. Personnel, customers, government, environment, investors and suppliers´ relations might not be a problem when a company is doing well. But as “time are a-changing” such relations must be assess continuously. Sometimes, intuition based decision making is not enough nowadays to lead a company in the right direction. More systematic approaches are required.

Corporatte strategy, marketing strategy, organizational structure, business process reengineering, mergers and acquisitions, financial management, downsizing, outsourcing, relationship marketing, alliances, globalization and green policies may and must generally be based in any kind of previous research.

References

Craig J. Calhoun, Donald Light, Suzanne Infeld Keller. Sociology. McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.
Gummesson, E. (1999). Qualitative methods in management research. Sage Publications, Incorporated.
Oliveto, Guillermo (2008). Market Research Explained. ESOMAR.