It’s All About Solving Problems…

Posted: October 16, 2012 in Market Research Methods 101
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When I mentioned market/marketing research to people who are not in the field, they always told me they saw it as a powerful but mysterious “monster” with complex data, analytics and techniques. They admire market research, but at the same time, it also makes them nervous.

Is market research really a secret world? Actually, it is nothing but solving the problems…

Market research is something as simple as picking your laundry store!

Now let’s recall the typical process we would use to solve a problem in our daily life. Say, you just moved to a new neighborhood and you want to figure out which laundry store you should go. Let’s assume you really care about your laundry and would like to make some effort to find out what is the best laundry store in your neighborhood. To identify the best, first you must know what makes a really good laundry store. You might take into consideration the price, the store location, the customer service, etc. Meanwhile, you also want to know how many laundry stores are in the neighborhood, what are they and what are their characteristics. To get information about how those laundry stores perform on the factors you named previously, you might want to ask a few of your neighbors’ opinion on them. You need to decide who you would like to ask: probably some experienced housewives instead of folks who just moved here like you. From different neighbors, you might get a great amount of distinct opinion and information. So, you may need to organize and analyze those information systematically to finally get your answer.  It seems very simple, isn’t it? Now I’d like to tell you that the process of market research is as simple as the laundry problem we just solved.

First and foremost, the market researchers must clearly consider and diagnose the problem that they need to solve. Do NOT assume it is self-explantory. Sometimes even the clients themselves are not clear what the real problem is. Market researchers should have in-depth conversations with the clients and help them to diagnose the problem, according to which we can raise the research question. In the laundry case, the research question was “what is the best laundry store in the neighborhood”. As soon as the research question is clear, we need to identify relevant variables. Going back to the laundry example, price, location, customer service are all factors that determine whether a laundry store is a good one. Similarly, we would like to find out the factors that matter for a market research question. Typically, there are four sources that we can use to propose variables: theories, previous literature, brainstorming and the client’s insight. Just as we want to know the basic information about all the laundry stores in the neighborhood, we would also do a formal background research for the client, the industry and major competitors according to our research question. Based on all the information we gathered, we are ready to design our research process. The research design depends largely on the research question, the budget and time limit. A mostly used method is self-reported survey. In the laundry example, we selected a bunch of experienced housewives to ask for their opinion about the laundry stores. While in a market research project, we will develop a questionnaire and select an appropriate sample whose opinion we would like to know. After we got information (data) from our sample, we will apply analytical techniques, trying to figure out patterns from their answers, just like we analyze the neighbor’s different opinion on laundry stores. Last but not least, we will write up the research report and prepare for the presentation.

So, that’s market research, that’s it. As to me, it’s a profession that all about solving problems. What do you think? Any thoughts on what market research means to you? I’d love to hear your opinion!

  1. Cynthia says:

    hey this is Xiaoyu. Laundry choose is an interesting example… and i actually have the same issue because i moved to super 88 this year and here is a new environment for me! well, my question regarding this case is that, as you said most times self reported survey would be chosen when designing research, how do select your volunteers? is there any criteria for this? We don’t want to choose a couple of housewives who have never been to laundry anyway… besides, how to reject subjective factors,like, a housewife had bad impression on a specific laundry because she has lost a pair of socks there?

    • Xiaoyu, thanks for your comment. Actually, this is the first piece of comment for this blog!

      You really raised up some good questions. As for selecting sample, what I mean by select “experienced housewives” is we should find a population that matters to our research question and select a sample within this population. The laundry example might be too subjective on this point. What if I put it in this way: you’d like to talk to people who live in this community rather than someone who lives far away.

      When we select samples, ideally, we’d like it to be as representative as possible within your population (however, we have to take into account budget, timing…). We know sometimes it’s hard, so in the step of analyzing, we have a bunch of statistical techniques to test whether an opinion can be generalized or not, in which way we can filter the subjective opinions.

      There are many ways to select a sample, so I’d like to talk about it in detail in my later posts. Please follow my blog or RSS me to get the updates! Hope you enjoy my blog!

  2. LI Mengyu says:

    find a research fun and she is a girl!!!

  3. […] powerful?, first of all, we need to go back to the essence of market research for a while. Yes, it’s all about solving problems, to be specific, solving the clients’ problem by providing them with relevant customer […]

  4. […] they share the same ultimate goal: exploring issues, understanding causes and effects, and finally, solving the problems.  When you hesitate about which kind of methods to use, always remember to go back to the origin […]

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