Information has no value until managers use it to make better marketing decisions. The information gathered needs distributing to the right marketing managers at the right time. Most companies have centralized marketing information systems that provide managers with regular performance reports, intelligence updates and reports on the results of studies. Managers need these routine reports tor making regular planning, implementation and control decisions. But marketing managers may also need non-routine information for special situations and on-the-spot decisions. For example, a sales manager having trouble with a large customer may want a summary of the account's sales and profitability over the past year. Or a retail store manager who has run out of a best-selling product
TAHLE 1 THE EUROPEAN UNION 1998: IN THE CLUB, IN THE QUEUE AND IN THE DISTANCE
STATUS POPULATION COUNTRIES
Fast-track applicants 63.1 Pre-aceession partnership applicants 42.7
Austria, Belgium. Denmark. Finland, France, (lerniany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland Slovenia
Bulgaria, Latvia. Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia Turkey of these are little known outside their home country.2
European primary and secondary data sources have yet to harmonize. Differences exist in the most basic of issues: variations in life-cycle groupings make comparisons awkward. In Germany, adulthood ranges from IS upwards, but in other countries it is as low as 12 years, thus eliminating the teenage market. In Japan, adulthood docs not depend on age: all persons living at home with their parents arc defined as children. Social class scales also differ. The British scale -A, B, Cl, C2, D and E - which is built up from ten components (e.g. age, income, occupation), is widely used, but Germany uses a point scale roughly de pend ing upon three components: income, profession and education. In France, the scale depends upon where as well as what is done: for example, working in public or private sectors.-1
The European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR) set up working parties in 1982 to find a set of demographic questions that could be asked in any European country. The questions cover basic issues like sex, age and economic status. Thtsc questions have been adopted by the European Barometer Service, Soon ESOMAR will be publishing a standardized format in a book that includes a sample questionnaire and information on how to code the answers.
While ESOMAR moves slowly towards a single research market, the growth of the EU will make it less of a standardized market. The list is always changing, but Table 1 shows the present position. Expect the EU to be an ever-expanding and diverging marketplace.4
1. KeeT.ll.A. Bijmolt, R.T. Fram back and T.M.M. Verhallan. 'Strategic marketing research', Journal ofMarketing Management, 12, 1/3, pp. 83-92.
2. Figures taken from the following excellent annual guide to the European market: European Market Pocket linnk; 1994 (Henley-on-Thames, UK; XTC Publications, 1994); see also a series of journal articles reviewing consumers in different European countries, starting with Peter S H. l.eeflang and W. Fred van Raaij, 'The changing consumer in the Netherlands : recent changes in environmental variables and their consequences for future consumption and marketing', international Journal of Research in Marketing, 12, 5 (1995), pp. 345-63.
3. See Maricke de Mooij, 'Research for worldwide advertising', in id., Advertising Worldwide (Heme! Ilempstead: Prentiee Hall, 1994), pp. 365-430; Louella Miles. 'Single market research', Marketing Business (July-August 1994), pp. 40-1.
4. 'A toueli of Eastern promise'. The Economist (26 March 1994). p. 40; "A rude awakening: a survey of the European Community', The Economist (3 July 1994); 'Europe: unsafe at any speed'. The Kconumist (20 December 1997).
may want to know the current inventory levels in the chain's other stores. In companies with only centralized information systems, these managers must request the information from the MIS staff and wait. Often, the information arrives too late to be useful.
Developments in information handling are now making Chat task easier With recent advances in computers, software and telecommunications, many companies are decentralizing their marketing information systems. They are giving managers direct access to information stored in the system. In some companies, marketing managers ean use a personal computer to tie into the company's information network. From any location, they ean obtain information from internal records or outside information services, analyze the information using statistical packages and models, prepare reports on a word processor, and communicate with others in the network.
Such systems offer cxeiting prospects. They allow the managers to get the information they need directly and quickly, and to tailor it to their needs. As managers develop the skills needed and as the systems become cheaper, companies will increasingly use decentralized marketing information systems.
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