In a market research project, the professional researcher uses multiple tools and resources to study market behavior, which includes the systematic study and deep understanding of consumer behavior, the identification and study of brands competing in the market (competitive analysis), the study of the media and its penetration in the masses where brands are advertised. The study and analysis of the alternative use of products and services and the combinations and mixtures that consumers make, that is to say, the substitute and complementary products that after all are part of the indirect competition. The study of distribution channels through the evaluation of the numerical and weighted distribution of brands in the different channels where the category is sold. This is done through Store Audit and tracking studies of brands and products. Studies of the image perceived by consumers through mystery shopping, among many other quantitative and qualitative tools that are used daily by professional market researchers around the world..
Qualitative research tools
Qualitative tools in market research have had a significant upturn in recent decades, where interesting and useful techniques such as focus groups have become popular. As its name suggests, qualitative research is more interested in the reactions, emotions and emotional attachment that consumers develop towards brands. The methodology of qualitative research through focus groups tries to capture observable but not quantifiable elements, which are used as inputs for advertising campaigns, for the creation of graphic images, for marketing campaign slogans, for the modification of the physical presentation of the product, among other marketing decisions, where the graphic and observable is more important than the quantifiable or representative.
The Focus Group tool
A focus group is the study of small, typical and representative groups of consumers without requiring a statistical sample design. For example, if our brand is a laundry soap, we might recruit a dozen housewives who know and use the brand or, depending on the focus of the study, housewives who know and use competing brands. Since we do not perform frequency analysis and counts as in the quantitative technique, the idea is to stimulate discussion among the participants by means of an expert moderator, who is usually a psychologist or marketer with expertise in conducting focus groups. Normally these discussions are recorded, documented and observed without the participant's knowledge. Thus, the purpose of the moderator is to motivate emotional reactions, facial expressions, and observable physical changes of the subjects, and to encourage them to express their emotions in a relaxed manner with words and gestures that allow us to confirm predefined hypotheses or to explore new hypotheses that we had not foreseen. For example, we could give a sample of the product to the recruited housewives so that they can explain how they use the soap powder, in what quantity they use it, how they mix it with other products, how they store it, etc. From this experience we will be able to construct stories or photograms that can be used as inputs for advertising or for the manufacture of ergonomic packaging, for example. Apart from focus groups, there are other qualitative-oriented techniques such as one-on-one in-depth interviews, observational studies such as the Hidden Customer, among many others.
Tools in Quantitative Research
Quantitative research techniques are the most widespread and used by today's market researchers, and are preferred by managers with numerical thinking, these techniques include all forms of questionnaires, as well as the use of proprietary data produced by sales systems, or by systems that manage the customer relationship (CRM). There are two types of research with a quantitative approach: research based on primary data, i.e. data generated through surveys or business databases, and research based on secondary data, i.e. data generated by chambers of commerce, universities, or by institutions that generate government information and statistics. Quantitative tools usually serve both to explore, describe and explain market behavior, as well as to confirm specific hypotheses.
Since investigating the total population (census) could be a costly and time-consuming process, it is necessary to resort to statistical sampling techniques to make a scientifically acceptable estimate of market behavior by taking small random but representative samples of the population. There are several sampling methodologies, being the most popular in the field of market research, stratified sampling, or also called quota sampling. In this type of sampling, people are randomly selected in each of the segments that make up the real market, both by age, sex, educational level and socioeconomic status, or by a combination of these demographic variables with the market segments in which our company has segmented its market. It is important that the researcher or marketer is supported by a professional statistician or actuary to advise on the different aspects of the methodology and sampling of the study to ensure that the sample is scientifically acceptable.
Among the quantitative tools most used today by market research agencies are ad-hoc surveys for general use, TRADE (channel) surveys to know the use of channels by competitors or to measure the efficiency of marketing channels. Surveys to track and follow up advertising, to measure awareness and advertising recall and its impact on the achievement of sales objectives. Other types of tools used in market research through surveys are store audits, which allow us to measure the presence and distribution of our brand and our competitors' brands, as well as to estimate the size of the market and the market share of the different brands.
Another important use of surveys as a data collection tool in the world of market research are experiments, concept tests and packaging tests, which follow proprietary methodologies. Media studies, whether radio, TV or Internet, which typically record the type of content presented and the use of each hour segment, in order to estimate the penetration, efficiency and use of the medium, as well as to establish the Rating of the various programs or content presented, so that it serves as input for buyers and users of the space in the various advertising media.
Software tools used in quantitative research
Any quantitative study carried out with primary data must execute a series of common processes, in which the use of software tools helps to speed up time and reduce human error. These processes are 1) Field data collection, 2) Data validation, cleaning and quality assurance, 3) Preparation of the database for analysis, which includes unification of textual data and coding of open-ended questions, and finally 4) Analysis of the results, either using descriptive statistics or multivariate data analysis techniques. Among the software tools most commonly used by professional researchers are the Excel spreadsheet and the IBM SPSS program. Also used are data collection and validation tools such as online survey services, or the use of integrated packages that support all collection methods such as SnapSurveys, Tesigandia or RotatorSurvey.