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• Empirical approach

• Observations

• Hypotheses

• Experiments

• Conclusions

• Replication

There has been some disagreement among researchers over the years regarding the elements that compose the scientific method. In fact, some researchers have even argued that it is impossible to define a universal approach to scientific investigation. Nevertheless, for over 100 years, the scientific method has been the defining feature of scientific research. Researchers generally agree that the scientific method is composed of the above mentioned key elements.

Before proceeding any further, one word of caution is necessary. In the brief discussion of the scientific marketing research process that follows, there will be several new terms and concepts that are related to scientific marketing research process. Do not be intimidated if you are unfamiliar with some of the words in this discussion. The purpose of the following is simply to set the stage for the chapters that follow, and each of the term would explained in the later chapters of the book.

Most marketing research involves obtaining information from marketplace directly or indirectly and therefore the common ground is in the realm of method and technique. The scientific marketing research process can therefore be defined in five stages. (1) Problem or opportunity identification; (2) Exploratory research; (3) Hypothesis development; (4) Conclusive research and; (5) Result. Marketing research being a continuous process most times the results provide a new perspective but at the same time point towards further research required to improve the understanding of the dynamic marketplace. The process is explained figuratively in the figure below.

Figure 1.2:

The marketing research process

Figure 1.2:

The marketing research process

Marketing Process Figure

The problem or opportunity identification stage relates to managements' understanding of the market forces and interpretation. This will become the basis for the exploratory research which is conducted to explore and gather further insight and ideas specific to the problem or opportunity. Exploratory research is generally found to be qualitative. The exploration into the problem or opportunity will lead a researcher to ideas which can be further defined and measured quantitatively. This stage is called hypothesis development. The hypothesis is tested using the conclusive research through a larger sample size. Conclusive research tends to be largely quantitative. The conclusive research will lead to the final results which as stated earlier will lead to further exploration. We will discuss each of the above steps in details in coming chapters.

1.3.1 Phase wise marketing research process

Figure 2 above provides a brief illustration of the marketing research process from scientific perspective. However, to a novice research it would be difficult to understand how these can be actually conducted in the real life scenario. Figure 3 below explains the marketing research process implementation step by step.

Various researchers provide different diagrammatic explanation for the marketing research process. However, the implementation of marketing research project will largely follow the process mentioned in figure 3. At this juncture, it is also necessary to understand that in most instances researchers would follow the four phases in order, although, the individual steps may be shifted or omitted. We will discuss such issues in details in later chapters.

Figure 1.3;

Phase wise marketing research process

Market Research Process

This book has been developed with the practical marketing research process in mind and so the chapter structure also follows the marketing research process structure. Chapter 1 focuses on the marketing research process and research problem identification from management dilemma. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on research design both exploratory and conclusive to create a blueprint of the research project. Chapter 4 deals with sampling as a phenomenon which is followed by a chapter on measurement and scaling (chapter 5). Chapter 6 will discuss questionnaire development in details followed by data collection and preliminary data analysis (chapter 7). The last chapter focuses on report preparation and presentation issues.

1.4 Defining a problem

Research in general is related to queries and queries arise when we observe some anomaly (or inconsistency). This anomaly can provide the basis for a problem or opportunity. Thus, defining a research problem or opportunity correctly is of major importance in any research. If the problem defined is not exhaustive the research may lead to incorrect or in some cases contrasting findings. In the following discussion we will touch upon the issue of how can correct problem definition be achieved and how it can enhance the chances of making the 'right' marketing decision?

1.4.1 The importance of defining a right problem

An old adage says, "A problem well defined is half solved". Defining a problem in general circumstance is not very hard as we keep on identifying right problems. Such as, while driving (Which way to drive? Not to change the lanes suddenly etc.), walking (Walking in a way without hitting any obstacle), eating (Eating food which we are comfortable with, Choice of places to eat, etc.), breathing (yes, even to breath or not to breath is a choice like, while underwater we define correctly that we should not breath without the right gear) and so on.

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We can answer such questions easily because every decision has a pattern involved in it. The simplest of decision situation can be characterized by the following condition:

1. A decision maker is operating in a set but dynamic environment in which there is a problem. (underwater environment and breathing as a problem)

2. There are at least two courses of action to choose from. (breath or not to breath)

3. Any of the choices made regarding the course of action will lead to two possible outcomes of that choice and the decision maker prefers one over the other. (breathing: death by drowning; not breathing: bringing oneself on surface and survival)

4. There is a chance, but not equal chance, that each course of action will lead to the desired outcome. If the chances are equal, the choice does not matter.11

The decision situation and defining of problem may sound easy in most situations; however, problem definition becomes sticky in most business situations because both marketing managers and marketing researchers often flounder in answering several important questions. This is because the decision is not taken by a single person but generally by a team and so it is important to have agreement on various issues for defining a 'right' problem. Following are the questions which must be asked before a marketing research problem is identified.

1. Have the decision makers and researchers framed an initial question and looked at the alternatives clearly? Is there an agreement on the initial question and the alternatives among most participants?

2. Is there agreement on the basis for selecting one alternative over others? Have acceptable criteria been developed?

3. What consequences would a 'wrong' decision bring upon?

4. Is there a serious disagreement among the team members with regards to choice of research alternatives and their adoption?

If the answers to all four questions are yes, marketing research information is needed to reduce the chance of making the wrong decision. In most failed research exercises it is observed that the team members did not define the answers to the first two questions clearly. If the answer to question three leads to serious consequences and similarly in the case of question four serious disagreements among the team members are found the problem definition needs to be revisited. An example of the same is explained below.

1.4.2 Converting management dilemma into research question

One of the largest cinema chains in the UK faced with a problem of declining audiences. The team in the first meeting came up with the initial problem statement as 'to discover why cinema audiences are declining'. However, several members of the team were unhappy and stated that research into this problem will lead to vague answers and unimplementable results. An alternative statement of problem was developed 'to identify ways in which more people could be attracted to attend the cinema'.

Although the two problem statements look quite similar, the outcomes of the research defined after revision will be action oriented in the case of the findings of the second statement, which would not be possible with the general statement defined as the former problem statement. The problem defined at first might bring answers which are beyond the remit of influence for the cinema chain managers. For example, if people stated that the movies now a days are not matching their tastes, it can't be acted upon by the management of the chain. However, with the second research problem the management can reliably know what the people want from a cinema theatre and such improvements can assist the management in attracting more people towards the cinema.

The above example demonstrates the importance of defining the right problem and how it can have a huge effect on the outcome of any research. The major question facing most managers is how to convert a management dilemma into a researchable problem. In real life situation it is not hard to define a management dilemma, however, the difficult thing is to identify a single dilemma on which to focus. As discussed above, choosing a wrong or incorrectly defined management dilemma will result in waste of resources as well as may lead to wrong decisions costing further on the company's bottom-line. The figure below shows the process of formulating a research question out of management dilemma. It also provides the factors to be considered by a researcher in the process of developing research question.

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