Info

Mail

Telephone

Personal

Online

Flexibility

Poor

Good

Excellent

Good

Quantity of data that can be collected

Good

Fair

Excellent

Good

Control of interviewer effects

Excellent

Fair

Poor

Fair

Control of sample

Fair

Excellent

Good

Excellent

Speed of data collection

Poor

Excellent

Good

Excellent

Response rate

Poor

Poor

Good

Good

Cost

Good

Fair

Poor

Excellent

Source: Adapted with permission of the authors from Marketing Research: Measurement and Method, 7th ed., by Donald S. Tull and Del I. Hawkins. Copyright 1993 by Macmillan Publishing Company.

Focus group interviewing

Personal interviewing that involves inviting six to ten people to gather for a few hours with a trained interviewer to talk about a product, service, or organization. The interviewer "focuses" the group discussion on important issues.

others. Response rates tend to be higher than with mail questionnaires, and interviewers can ask to speak to respondents with the desired characteristics or even by name.

However, with telephone interviewing, the cost per respondent is higher than with mail questionnaires. Also, people may not want to discuss personal questions with an interviewer. The method introduces interviewer bias—the way interviewers talk, how they ask questions, and other differences may affect respondents' answers. Different interviewers may interpret and record responses differently, and under time pressures some interviewers might even cheat by recording answers without asking questions. Finally, in this age of do-not-call lists and promotion-harassed consumers, potential survey respondents are increasingly hanging up on telephone interviewers rather than talking with them.

Personal interviewing takes two forms—individual and group interviewing. Individual interviewing involves talking with people in their homes or offices, on the street, or in shopping malls. Such interviewing is flexible. Trained interviewers can guide interviews, explain difficult questions, and explore issues as the situation requires. They can show subjects actual products, advertisements, or packages and observe reactions and behavior. However, individual personal interviews may cost three to four times as much as telephone interviews.

Group interviewing consists of inviting six to ten people to meet with a trained moderator to talk about a product, service, or organization. Participants normally are paid a small sum for attending. The moderator encourages free and easy discussion, hoping that group interactions will bring out actual feelings and thoughts. At the same time, the moderator "focuses" the discussion—hence the name focus group interviewing.

Researchers and marketers watch the focus group discussions from behind one-way glass and comments are recorded in writing or on video for later study. Today, focus group researchers can even use videoconferencing and Internet technology to connect marketers in distant locations with live focus group action. Using cameras and two-way sound systems, marketing executives in a far-off boardroom can look in and listen, using remote controls to zoom in on faces and pan the focus group at will.

Along with observational research, focus group interviewing has become one of the major qualitative marketing research tools for gaining fresh insights into consumer thoughts and feelings. However, focus group studies present some challenges. They usually employ small samples to keep time and costs down, and it may be hard to generalize from the results. Moreover, consumers in focus groups are not always open and honest about their real feelings, behavior, and intentions in front of other people.

Thus, although focus groups are still widely used, many researchers are tinkering with focus group design. For example, Cammie Dunaway, chief marketing officer at the search-engine company Yahoo!, prefers "immersion groups"—four or five people with whom Yahoo!'s product designers talk informally, without a focus group moderator present. That way, rather than just seeing videos of consumers reacting to a moderator, Yahoo! staffers can work directly with select customers to design new products and programs. "The outcome is richer if [consumers] feel included in our process, not just observed," says Dunaway.19

Other researchers are combining focus groups with hypnosis in an effort to get deeper, more vivid insights. Consider this example:20

Volvo equals safety. In focus group after focus group, participants said the same thing. But to check these findings, Volvo called in a hypnotist. Members of Volvo focus groups were asked to test-drive a car. Immediately afterwards, they were hypnotized and asked their true feelings about the brand. It wasn't pretty: Many revealed that Volvo also equals being middle-aged. That idea "for some people was suffocating," says a Volvo researcher. "Hypnosis helped get past the clichés. We needed the conversation taken to a deeper, more emotional place."

Still other researchers are changing the environments in which they conduct focus groups. To help consumers relax and to elicit more authentic responses, they use settings that are more comfortable and more relevant to the products being researched. AFor example, to get a better understanding of how women shave their legs, Schick Canada

New focus group environments: To create a more congenial setting in which women could open up and share personal shaving and moisturizing stories, Schick Canada sponsored "Slow Sip" sessions in local cafés.

Online marketing research

Collecting primary data online through Internet surveys, online focus groups, Web-based experiments, or tracking consumers' online behavior.

created the "Slow Sip" sessions designed to be like a simple get-together with girlfriends.

In these Slow Sip sessions, participants gathered round at a local café to sip coffee or tea and munch on snacks together. The structure was loose, and the congenial setting helped the women to open up and share personal shaving and moisturizing stories on a subject that might have been sensitive in a more formal setting. The Slow Sip sessions produced a number of new customer insights. For example, researchers discovered that the message for their Schick Quattro for Women razor—that Quattro has four-blade technology—was too technical. Women don't care about the engineering behind a razor, they care about shaving results. As a result, Schick Canada repositioned the Quattro as offering a smooth, long-lasting shave. As a side benefit, participants enjoyed the sessions so much that they wanted to stick around for more. They became a kind of ongoing advisory board for Schick's marketers and "brand ambassadors" for Schick's products.21

Online Marketing Research. The growth of the Internet has had a dramatic impact on the conduct of marketing research. Increasingly, researchers are collecting primary data through online marketing research—Internet surveys, online panels, experiments, and online focus groups. By one estimate, global online research spending reached an estimated $4.4 billion in 2008, triple the amount spent in 2005. An estimated one-quarter to one-third of all research will be conducted online by 2010.22

Online research can take many forms. A company can use the Web as a survey medium. It can include a questionnaire on its Web site and offer incentives for completing it. It can use e-mail, Web links, or Web pop-ups to invite people to answer questions and possibly win a prize. It can create online panels that provide regular feedback or conduct live discussions or online focus groups. Beyond surveys, researchers can conduct experiments on the Web. They can experiment with different prices, use different headlines, or offer different product features on different Web sites or at different times to learn the relative effectiveness of their offers. Or they can set up virtual shopping environments and use them to test new products and marketing programs. Finally, a company can learn about the behavior of online customers by following their click streams as they visit the Web site and move to other sites.

The Internet is especially well suited to quantitative research—conducting marketing surveys and collecting data. Two-thirds of all Americans now have access to the Web, making it a fertile channel for reaching a broad cross section of consumers. As response rates for traditional survey approaches decline and costs increase, the Web is quickly replacing mail and the telephone as the dominant data collection methodology. One industry analyst estimates that consumer packaged-goods firms may now invest as much as two-thirds of their total quantitative survey budgets online. And Internet surveys now command nearly 80 percent of all online research spending.23

Web-based survey research offers some real advantages over traditional phone and mail approaches. The most obvious advantages are speed and low costs. "Faster. Cheaper. It boils down to that," concludes a marketing research executive.24 By going online, researchers can quickly and easily distribute Internet surveys to thousands of respondents simultaneously via e-mail or by posting them on selected Web sites. Responses can be almost instantaneous, and because respondents themselves enter the information, researchers can tabulate, review, and share research data as they arrive.

Online research usually costs much less than research conducted through mail, phone, or personal interviews. Using the Internet eliminates most of the postage, phone, interviewer, and data-handling costs associated with the other approaches. As a result, Internet surveys typically cost 15 to 20 percent less than mail surveys and 30 percent less than phone surveys. Moreover, sample size has little impact on costs. Once the questionnaire is set up, there's little difference in cost between 10 and 10,000 respondents on the Web.

Online focus groups

Gathering a small group of people online with a trained moderator to chat about a product, service, or organization and gain qualitative insights about consumer attitudes and behavior.

Beyond their speed and cost advantages, Web-based surveys also tend to be more interactive and engaging, easier to complete, and less intrusive than traditional phone or mail surveys. As a result, they usually garner higher response rates. The Internet is an excellent medium for reaching the hard-to-reach—the often-elusive teen, single, affluent, and well-educated audiences. It's also good for reaching working mothers and other people who lead busy lives. Such people are well represented online, and they can respond in their own space and at their own convenience.

Whereas marketing researchers have rushed to use the Internet for quantitative surveys and data collection, they are now also adopting qualitative Web-based research approaches—such as online focus groups or depth interviews. Many marketers have learned that the Internet can provide a fast, low-cost way to gain qualitative customer insights. For example, the beer company Anheuser-Busch uses the Web—both formally and informally—as a research "test-lab" for advertising ideas.25

Anheuser-Busch is increasingly using the Web to spread and fine-tune its advertising. The Web allows it to test-drive edgy material that, in years past, would never have seen the light of day for fear of causing offense on TV. Witness the strange life of "Swear Jar," a commercial that portrays an effort to clean up office language by fining staffers 25 cent per profanity. The twist: the cash goes toward buying Bud Light—and the wholesome plan backfires spectacularly. Although the language was, too raw for TV, A-B tested it out on the Internet. Someone sent it to YouTube, where it got more than 2.5 million hits, despite never appearing on television. "The digital space . . . can be an incubator for ideas," says an Anheuser-Busch media executive. Using the Web to gauge fervor for offbeat ads promises broader and quicker insight than the traditional way—peeking through a one-way window as a test group watches new TV commercials. "The Web gives instant credibility or thumbs-down," says the executive.

The primary qualitative Web-based research approach is online focus groups. Such focus groups offer many advantages over traditional focus groups. Participants can log in from anywhere—all they need is a laptop and a Web connection. Thus, the Internet works well for bringing together people from different parts of the country or world, especially those in higher-income groups who can't spare the time to travel to a central site. Also, researchers can conduct and monitor online focus groups from just about anywhere, eliminating travel, lodging, and facility costs. Finally, although online focus groups require some advance scheduling, results are almost immediate.

Online focus groups can take any of several formats. Most occur in real time, in the form of online chat room discussions in which participants and a moderator sit around a virtual table exchanging comments. Alternatively, researchers might set up an online message board on which respondents interact over the course of several days or a few weeks. Participants log in daily and comment on focus group topics. The focus group moderator monitors the online interactions and redirects the discussion as required to keep the group on track. This ongoing message board format gives participants a chance to reflect on their responses, talk to others, and check out products in the real world as the group progresses. It also gives researchers the opportunity to make ongoing adjustments as the discussion unfolds. As a result, this online approach can produce much more data and deeper insights than single-session, in-person focus groups.

Although low in cost and easy to administer, online focus groups can lack the real-world dynamics of more personal approaches. The online world is devoid of the eye contact, body language, and direct personal interactions found in traditional focus group research. And the Internet format—running, typed commentary and online "emoticons" (punctuation marks that express emotion, such as :-) to signify happiness)— greatly restricts respondent expressiveness. The impersonal nature of the Internet can prevent people from interacting with each other in a normal way and getting excited about a concept.

Sample

A segment of the population selected for marketing research to represent the population as a whole.

Although the use of online marketing research is growing rapidly, both quantitative and qualitative Web-based research does have drawbacks. For one, restricted Internet access can make it difficult to get a broad cross section of respondents— because many people still lack Web access.27 However, with Internet penetration growing, this is less of a problem. Another major problem is controlling who's in the online sample. Without seeing respondents, it's difficult to know who they really are. Finally, online surveys can be dry and lacking in dynamics compared with other, more-personal approaches.

To overcome such sample and context problems, many online research firms use opt-in communities and respondent panels. For example, online research firm Greenfield Online provides access to 12 million opt-in panel members in more than 40 countries. Advances in technology—such as the integration of animation, streaming audio and video, and virtual environments—also help to overcome online research dynamics limitations. In another recent development, many companies are developing their own custom social networks and using them to gain customer inputs and insights (see Real Marketing 4.1).

Perhaps the most explosive issue facing online researchers concerns consumer privacy. Some fear that unethical researchers will use the e-mail addresses and confidential responses gathered through surveys to sell products after the research is completed. They are concerned about the use of technologies that collect personal information online without the respondents' consent. Failure to address such privacy issues could result in angry, less-cooperative consumers and increased government intervention. Despite these concerns, most industry insiders predict healthy growth for online marketing research.28

Sampling Plan

Marketing researchers usually draw conclusions about large groups of consumers by studying a small sample of the total consumer population. A sample is a segment of the population selected for marketing research to represent the population as a whole. Ideally, the sample should be representative so that the researcher can make accurate estimates of the thoughts and behaviors of the larger population.

fi-wmsai

Some researchers have now added real-time audio and video to their online focus groups. For example, Channel M2 "puts the human touch back into online research" by assembling focus group participants in people-friendly "virtual interview rooms."

To overcome these shortcomings, some researchers are now adding real-time audio and video to their online focus groups. ÀFor example, online research firm Channel M2 "puts the human touch back into online research" by assembling focus group participants in people-friendly "virtual interview rooms."26

Participants are recruited using traditional methods and then sent a Web camera so that both their verbal and nonverbal reactions can be recorded. Participants are then provided instructions via e-mail, including a link to the Channel M2 online interviewing room and a toll-free teleconference number to call. At the appointed time, when they click on the link and phone in, participants sign on and see the Channel M2 interview room, complete with live video of the other participants, text chat, screen or slide sharing, and a whiteboard. Once the focus group is underway, questions and answers occur in "real time" in a remarkably lively setting. Participants comment spontaneously—verbally, via text messaging, or both. Researchers can "sit in" on the focus group from anywhere, seeing and hearing every respondent. Or they can review a recorded version at a later date.

Del Monte's "I Love My Dog" custom social network lets the company continuously observe and interact with important customers to obtain authentic, in-depth insights.

Real

Get Paid Taking Surveys In Your Spare Time

Get Paid Taking Surveys In Your Spare Time

You won’t want to miss this. Get Paid Taking Surveys In Your Spare Time. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Oh great, another get rich quick scheme’. WRONG! This is your guide to making money from home by participating in paid surveys on the internet.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment