Marketing research can be defined as the organized assembling, recording & study of data related to marketing products or services. The basic goal or objective of marketing research is to assess and recognize how the varying rudiments of the marketing mix affect consumer behavior.  The official definition by the American Marketing Association is as follows:

“Marketing research is the function that links the consumer, customer, and public to the marketer through information – information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process. Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues, designs the methods for collecting information, manages and implements the data collection process, analyzes, and communicates the findings and their implications.”

It is further defined, very briefly by Palmer as: “Marketing research is about researching the whole of a company’s marketing process.” (2000).

Marketing research is usually divided into two categories, on the basis of target market; (1) Consumer marketing research and  (2) B2B marketing research (business- to- business), however another methodological way to categorize it is (1) Research based on quality and (2) Research based on quantity.

Consumer marketing research deals with understanding social behavior of consumers, for instance it researchers the consumer preferences, behavior and attitude in the market.  Its main aim is to recognize the comparative effect and success of marketing campaigns done by companies. Therefore, we can also describe marketing research as the process which identifies objectives, collects data, analyzes given information and concentrates on the distribution of information with the intention of assisting organizations’ managements to identify problems in their marketing sectors, and to make decision about these problems.

Difference Between Market Research and Marketing Research

Marketing research and market research are not the same; there is a slight difference between the two, though most people tend to identify them as the same thing. The distinction between market research and marketing research is that, “Market research deals specifically with the gathering of information about a market’s size and trends. Marketing research covers a wider range of activities. While it may involve market research, marketing research is a more general systematic process that can be applied to a variety of marketing problems.”

Marketing Research (International)

[adsense1]When talking about international marketing research it is important to understand that, it is mostly the same as the domestic marketing research but only with a broader or much wider scope; However, with that it also brings more problems because the data collection is based on a lot more varied factors and each factor needs to be analyzed keeping all the things In mind. This is because, when conducting marketing research internationally one deals with various cultures, customs, not only from the consumers but also from the different workers who work in those different countries but are from the same company. In case of international marketing research secondary information becomes vital because it provides a general background on the consumers as well as the country and its customs. These data’s are then combined for analysis, it can be very time consuming as well al confusing at times. International research requires more primary research than secondary research; this can be a huge problem because of the difference in language, use and access of advanced technology, literacy and all such factors that can become a hindrance in this process.

The Role of Marketing Research & Decision Making

The basic mission of marketing research is to present management with significant, precise, dependable, legitimate, and current information. It is imperative for the information to be sound and reliable, as non-reliable information leads to poor decision making; which is crucial for organizations in a competitive marketing environment.  However, it should always be understood, that sound decisions are never based on gut feelings or human intuition, reliable and accurate data is required to   back-up formal decisions.

Marketing managers make various premeditated and tactical decisions in the process of identifying the needs of consumers. These decisions are generally about the prospective opportunities, selection of target markets, segmenting markets, marketing product performance, the preparation of marketing programs and the control of the product. These decisions become complicated because of the controllable and uncontrollable marketing variables of a product. For instance, controllable marketing variables are the product, price, promotion and distribution whereas uncontrollable variables are the economic condition, environmental factors, technology, governmental policies, laws and social & cultural changes etc.

The “Decide model” further explains the role of decision making in marketing research. This model conceptualizes the managerial decision making in a series of 6 steps:

“D: Defines the Marketing problem

E:  Enumerate the controllable & uncontrollable decision factors

C: Collect relevant information

I: Identify the best alternatives

D: Develop & implement a marketing plan

E: Evaluate the decision & the decision process.”

The Characteristics of Marketing Research

When talking about marketing research it is essential to understand that it is systematic. Therefore, it requires systematic planning in all stages. The procedures used in the process need to be methodologically sound and planned ahead. The characteristics of marketing research are given below:

(1) It is objective

(2) It involves identifying and collecting data for the distribution of information

(3) It helps in making sound and accurate decisions

The Classification of Marketing Research

There are two main reasons why organizations take on marketing research, (1) to identify marketing problems (2) to solve marketing problems. This difference helps to serve as a basis for the classification of problem solving and problem identifying research in marketing research.

The Kinds of Marketing Research

There are many kinds of marketing research; some of them are given below:

(1) Advertising

(2) Brand equity

(3) Brand name testing

(4)  Customer satisfaction

(5) Test Marketing

(6) Segmentation

(7) Sales Forecasting

These are just some of the many types of marketing research; they can be classified as either problem solving or problem identification research.

However there are two main ways of collecting this research, they are primary and secondary. Where primary research is collected from scratch, secondary research is pre existing and is collected for other purposes, but is used in this case for reference and consultation. Though secondary research costs less than primary research, it cannot always be determined that it will contain all the factors needed for analysis by the researcher.

Another such research is exploratory and conclusive research. Where exploratory research is used to grasp understanding of an issue, conclusive research is used to draw conclusions on the collected data. It often happens that researchers tend to use multiple research designs, starting with secondary research for the background information and moving on to qualitative research and further on to quantitative research based on a much wider survey to derive specific information.

The Process of Marketing Research

The following examples show how marketing research is gathered using the systematic approach:

(1) Defining the problem: It is important to never just conduct research because of what you would like to know, remember that it should be because there is a general need to know the problem; by doing so the problem becomes the main focus of the research and it is much easier to identify it.

(2) How to collect the data for problem solving and analysis: it is important to determine the mode of research, for instance, telephone surveys, focus groups, internet surveys, questionnaires etc.

(3) Selecting sample methods: deciding on random, stratified or clustered samples.

(4) How to analyze the collected data: This requires determining which software’s or programs need to be used in order to attain the degree of accuracy for problem solving.

(5) Deciding Budgets & Time frames: This is one of the most essential points, as most researches tend to cost a lot of money, and setting limits always helps.

(6) Discuss the research, its importance and usefulness.

(7) Collect data

(8) Conduct analysis of the present data

(9) Always check for errors and analytic mistakes.

(10) Make the final report and start the problem identifying and solving process.

Contents of a Marketing Research Report

Most marketing research reports are the same, but formats may vary according to organizations specifications, however the usual marketing research report will contain the following parts:

• The table of contents
• The list of illustrations
• The executive summary
• The objectives of research
• The methodology of research conducted
• The results of the research
• Conclusions & recommendations

[adsense1]In the end, it is important to understand, that marketing research cannot by itself arrive at any decisions pertaining marketing problems. It also does not guarantee that it will lead to successful feats for any organizations that conduct it. It is merely a tool to understand and identify some basic problems so that improvements can be made, where necessary and possible. If the marketing research is conducted in the proper systematic way, it will reduce the doubt or insecurity of marketing managers when making important decisions and may increase the scale of success.  But all in all, marketing research is a very important aspect in the marketing business, as it not only helps in problem solving and identification but it gives the marketing manager a broader knowledge about   the kinds of target markets, customers etc it can pursue and what is wanted by its customers or potential customers, it is always a source of expanding customer knowledge and customer base.