Marketing research process involves series of steps, out of which data collection is the major step. It is on the basis of collected data only, that findings are made and conclusions are derived. Collection of data is an expensive activity which requires more time and huge funds. There are different methods for data collection. These methods are used as per requirements of the individual research problem.
Various methods of conducting marketing research may be broadly classified into following:
1. Desk Research
2. Field investigation
3. Observation method
4. Experimental method
1. Desk Research:
Desk research is a method of research where the research is conducted with the help of already available published information within the company. This types of research depends upon the internal sources of information like trade journals, official statistics, company reports, libraries etc. The collected information is examined and analysed by the research officials of the company.
This type of research is extensively used by many business organisations, whenever they face problems. It is a cost effective method of conducting research which can also be used easily. Thus it is simple and economical in nature. However, many times, the available information may not be sufficient and the researcher has to supplement it with field investigation.
Sources of Information for Desk Research:
The published information for desk research is available from various sources like:
1. Trade Journals
3. Subscription Services
4. Company Reports
6. Publication of Banks and Financial Institutions
8. Publications of Trade Association and Chambers of Commerce
9. Government Publications
10. Internal Sources
Merits of Desk Research:
1. It is an easy method to apply.
2. It is a cost effective method of research as data can be easily collected through internal sources.
3. Reliable, accurate and authentic data are collected.
4. Desk research does not involve much time, thus it is time saving.
5. In some cases, it is better than field investigation.
Demerits of Desk Research:
1. The information available from internal sources may not be sufficient to produce desirable results.
2. The published information may not be always reliable and in accordance with the purpose of research.
3. Desk research depends upon internal sources of information, which require suitable modification before actual use.
4. This method lacks practical orientation.
5. Huge amount of funds are required for purchasing foreign journals and reports.
2. Field Investigation:
Field investigation is an important method of Methods of Field collecting data for research. First-hand Investigation information is collected directly from consumers and dealers who are in direct contact with the market. It is a superior method as compared to the desk research, as it has the first hand information pertaining to the market. At the same time it is important to note that two methods are complementary to each other.
Field investigation can be done in three important ways:
A. Personal interview
B. Mail order survey
C. Telephone interview
A. Personal Interview:
Personal interview is a face to face communication with the respondent. The interviewer gets in touch with the respondents, ask the questions and record the answers obtained. Answers can be recorded at the time of interview or afterwards. Interview can be conducted at any place but it is appropriate to meet the respondent either at his place of work or residence. Personal interviews may be either structured or unstructured.
In structured interview, formal questionnaire is formulated and questions are asked in pre-arranged order. Because of direct personal contact, the interviewer here is in position together additional information about the problem under construction. Personal interviews are costly and time consuming but the data collected is reliable and authentic. Maximum information is collected because of two way communication.
Merits of Personal Interview:
i. Personal interview enjoys flexibility as discussion can be adjusted as per the requirement.
ii. In-depth and reliable information can be gathered.
iii. Face to face information promotes better interaction and thus more information.
iv. Personal interviews are of longer duration; therefore purpose of research can be properly translated to the respondents.
v. Interviewer can also discuss lengthy questions.
Demerits of Personal Interview:
i. It is an expensive method because well trained interviewers are required.
ii. It takes long period of time to conduct large number of personal interview.
iii. Information supplied on spot may not be reliable and correct.
iv. Personal interviews require long term planning for getting appointments from the respondents.
v. Lot of subjectivity is involved from the side of both interviewer and respondent.
vi. Supervision and control becomes difficult when interviewer move to far off places to get the interview.
B. Mail Order Survey:
Mail order survey is a method of field investigation where questionnaires are mailed to the respondents with a covering letter instructing the respondents on how to complete the questionnaire and then return it to the researcher. Thus, great deal of importance is placed on the construction of the questionnaire because there are no interviewer to ask questions and record answers.
In this case questionnaire has to be more carefully compiled, structured and pretested than the personal interview questionnaire. In this method, the respondents must be convinced about the importance of research and their interest should be kept at high level. This method is economical as compared to personal interview method. Proper planning has to be done so that maximum responses can be received.
Merits of Mail Survey:
i. It is an economical method as only printed questionnaires are to be served.
ii. It is a faster method of collecting information as number of respondents may provide information in short period of time.
iii. Large number of respondents over a large geographical area may be covered.
iv. Interviewer bias is eliminated in this method.
v. It is a very simple method as only questionnaire has to be sent.
vi. Respondents may fill the questionnaire as per their convenience in a relaxed atmosphere.
Demerits of Mail Survey:
i. The rejection rate is very high in this method as respondents don’t take interest in such activities.
ii. An exhaustive mailing list is required in mail order survey, if it is not there, research work will suffer.
C. Telephone Interview:
The telephone interview method is used when the information to be collected is limited. It is more frequently used when the information has to be collected quickly and inexpensively. However, it is difficult to get exhaustive information over telephone as probing cannot be done.
Here brief conversation by way of interview takes place on the telephone. It is a quick and economical method because responses can be immediately obtained and a wide area can be covered. But only a limited amount of information can be obtained. The response of the respondents is subject to bias.
Merits of Telephone Interview:
i. It is speedier method of collecting information.
ii. It is an economical method.
iii. A large numbers of interviews can be conducted because of high speed.
iv. High level and busy executive who are difficult to be contacted personally may be available for telephone survey.
v. Respondents are more frank on telephone and give quick responds.
Demerits of Telephone Interview:
i. This method is useful only when limited information is to be collected.
ii. Respondents have their own attitudes, interest and ambitions, so their replies can be biased.
iii. There is no control over interview techniques.
iv. Telephone interviews suffer from bad lines, cut off and other problems.
v. Questions requiring explanations and lengthy answers cannot be asked.
vi. Observation of respondents is not possible which provides important information.
vii. Only telephone subscribers may be contacted which restrict the limit of research.
3. Observation Method:
This method of primary data collection is very important and is extensively used. Observation is used to obtain information on the current behaviour of the people. Observation means human or mechanical means of perception and recording. The method involves use of specialised personal observers who observe the concerned phenomena. It is a process of noting people, objects and occurrences rather than asking questions from them.
Observation method is mainly used when interviewer fails to collect information through personal communication. This method provides more accurate and reliable information. This is because respondent may not reveal true and fair information but observation of the facts reveals the correct picture. However care has to be taken to avoid observer’s errors.
Merits of Observation Method:
(i) Observation method provides more reliable and accurate information.
(ii) The events are recorded as they occur. The researcher is not dependent on the respondents.
(iii) It is an economical method.
(iv) More objective data is collected through this method.
Demerits of Observation Method:
(i) It is difficult to observe the attitude, opinions and intention of customers.
(ii) It is only concerned with the current behaviour of the respondents, past details cannot be collected.
(iii) It is a costly method since events do not take place at rapid intervals.
(iv) The subjectivity of the observer may distort the observation.
(v) Observers may also many times commit mistakes, which is likely to affect the quality of research.
4. Experimental Method:
In order to remove the weaknesses of observation method, experimental method is used. This method is concerned with the verification of the descriptive data through experimentation in field setting and laboratory setting.
Field setting take place in the market. Here the field setting is done before the participants come. The purpose is not made known to participants, and their observations are recorded. This experiment is normally conducted in test marketing to test the acceptability of a new product. It is not frequently used as it involves huge cost and longer period of time.
As against field setting which are out in the open, laboratory setting of experiments as the name suggests are performed under controlled conditions. In this method, limited numbers of persons are requested to join and article to be tested are provided to them. Thereafter, their reactions about the article are noted down.
This method is performed under controlled conditions. Here the purpose of experiment is made clear to the participants, therefore they are clear with what they have to do and provide critical information. This method is less costly than field settings and takes less time and gives reasonably accurate results.