Marketing Research: Definition, Objective, Scope, Steps

What is Marketing Research?

Marketing Research is the systematic gathering, recording and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services. Market Research studies a target market. It collects data about that market place and the consumers within it.

Table of Content

Definition of Marketing Research

MR is the systematic gathering, recording and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services.American Marketing Association
MR is the systematic and objective search for and analysis of information relevant to the identification and solution of any problem in the field of marketing.Green and Tull
MR is the systematic, objective and exhaustive search for and study of the facts relating to any problem in the field of marketing.Richard Crisp

Above definitions bring out three key ideas regarding marketing research

  • MR is concerned with studying numerous problems in marketing.
  • Purpose of MR is to help decision–making in the marketing field.
  • Systematic gathering and analysis of information is its route in achieving its purpose.

With increasing complexity of business operations, marketing research too has been growing in complexity and has emerged as highly specialised functions. Today, carrying out marketing research, whether relating to the customer, product, or market, necessitates specialized skills and involves sophisticated.

Objective of Market Research

  • Marketing Research is used in the information of all marketing plans, programmes, procedures, policies and strategies.
  • It helps in obtaining customer opinion about existing products and develops new products. It gives information in relation to product, brand, and packaging, also in relation to consumers and their needs and wants.
  • It helps the marketing department to focus on consumers’ needs and wants and their perceptions and evaluation of existing product and level of customer satisfaction.

  • It helps in understanding consumers buying motives, motivation and attitude towards products and services, corporate image and services, corporate image and brands.

Scope of Market Research

Marketing Research includes all the activities that enable organisation to obtain market information. Market researcher needs to make decision about it environment, marketing mix and present or potential customer.

Marketing research plays an important role in planning, implementation and evaluation of marketing management process.

Marketing Manager makes use of four main sources of decision making.

Syndicate Service

Marketing research firm produce and sell these scheduled reports. The report contains valuable information. E.g. Survey of Indian Industry, Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Marketing Information System (MKIS)

This is an internal activity where standardized reports are generated on regular basis or it is generated on demand also. E.g. Sales Reports, inventory amounts, production schedules and also purchased information. We can track the sales performance and the changing taste of consumer also through MKIS.

Decision Support System

DSS is the interactive system in the company. It permits the decision maker to interact directly with data through a PC to answer specific questions. The difference between MKIS and DSS is that while former only provides information on the basis of which decision is taken, the latter provides answers or decisions appropriate to a situation.

Market Research Projects

It is done to find out specific problems to in the market. It is done by the employee of the company or outsourced to external agencies.

Steps involves in Marketing Research

In order to do marketing research, the researcher goes through several steps, depending upon the problem, time, costs and benefits some of the steps are compressed. There are five steps in the market research process,

Define a
Statement of
Develop the
the findings
and taking

Defining the problem

The first and the key step to marketing research process is to define a problem for which research is to be conducted. Problems which need to solve will require collecting of relevant initial information and from where this information will be available and how this information will affect decision making process.

Once the problem is defined precisely and the need of research is discussed, the further process could be conducted in an efficient manner.

Statement of Objective

One the problem is defined, the next logical step what the researcher wants to achieve. This statement is objective. The objective should be specific, attainable and measurable. The purpose of these objectives is to act as a guide to the researcher and help him in maintaining a focus all through the research.

Developing the Research Plan

Research Design : It is the blue print of the research project. It indicate the method of research is deciding the research design.There are three types of research design.

  • Exploratory
  • Descriptive
  • Causative


Exploratory research is mainly used to explore the insights of the general research problem. It is conducted when the researcher does not know how and why a certain phenomenon occurs. The goal of this research is to know the unknown, this research is unstructured.

Exploratory research methods are Secondary data analysis, Expert Survey, Focus group interviews, Depth interview, Case analysis, Projective techniques.


How does the customer evaluate the quality of a bank, hotel or an airline, where there are no tangible.Several researchers have conducted focus group discussion to identify these quality parameter. (Zeithamal, Parsuraman and Berry identified variables which they clubbed under five groups).


This research is conducted to describe the business or market characteristic. Descriptive research mainly answers who,what, when, where and how kind of questions. Descriptive research methods are cross sectional research and longitudinal study.


A consumer durable company had conducted a descriptive research to understand the consumption pattern for its product. Descriptive research has revealed that 50% of the customers are government employees, 40% are businessmen, and the remaining 10% are scattered in different segments of society. The research has also revealed that 60% of the customers are men and 40% are women.

Causal Research

Causative Research is done to establish a cause and effect relationship, for example, the influence of income and lifestyle on purchase decision. Here the researcher may like to see the effect of rising income and changing life style on consumption of select products. He/She may test the hypothesis that as income increases or life–style changes, more elite and state–of–the art products are likely to be bought.

Sources of Data

Once the research design has been decided, the next stage is that of selecting the sources of data. There are two sources of data or information – Secondary and Primary.

Primary Data

Primary data are the firsthand information, which is collected by the researcher. It requires technical expertise. Survey, Experiment and interview are the examples of it.

Secondary Data

Secondary data are collected by some other researcher. Secondary data can be of two types. Internal and external.

Internal Secondary Data

We know that organization always possess a great deal of internal secondary data with them. E.g. Sales statistics constitute the most important component of secondary data in marketing and the researcher uses it extensively. All the output of MIS researcher gets constitute internal secondary data.

External Secondary Data

Newspapers, magazines, technical journal, trade publications, directories, government publications, committee reports, reference books, balance sheets of companies and syndicated and published research report by various MR agencies are sources of the external secondary data.

Data Collection

The researcher is now reader to take a plunge. But still he or she needs to be clear about the :

  • Procedure of data collection
  • Tools for data collection

Procedure of Data Collection

Data can be collected from any or combination of the following techniques.

Observational Research

Observational research is the type of approach in which researcher collect the data by observing consumer. Sometime CCTV, or Photography is also done to observe and collect.

Detail information Example

What customer is buying and doing in the store,behave in shopping area,dresses up etc.

Ethnographic Research

In this type of research, researcher observes and interacts with the respondent (participants) in the reallife environment. Researcher often lives among the group or society in order to learn about them.

Focus Group Research

In Focus group research sample of 6 to 10 people are selected for demographic, psychographic, or other consideration and are asked to discuss various topic. A professional moderator asks questions and probes based on the Marketing Manager’s agenda. Focus Group Discussion sessions are recorded and Marketing Manager will observe from the behind two–way mirror.

Survey Research

Survey research is defined as “The collection of information from a sample of individuals through their responses to questions” (Check & Schutt, 2012, p. 160). Questions are asked either in person, by phone or online.

Behavioral Research

Behavioral Research Analysis how people make choices. When consumer actually purchase product or services, their preference is reflected which is often more than the statement they offer to the market research.

Tools for Data Collection :

The tools which can be used for data collection are as follows :


A questionnaire is a research instrument that consists of a set of questions that are presented to the respondent for collecting information. There are two basically types of questionnaire structured and unstructured questionnaire. A mixture of these both is the quasi–structured questionnaire that is used mostly in social science research.

Structured questionnaires include pre–coded questions with well– defined skipping patterns to follow the sequence of questions. Most of the quantitative data collection operations use structured questionnaires. Fewer discrepancies, easy to administer consistency in answers and easy for the data management are advantages of such structured questionnaires.S tructured questionnaire collects quantitative data.

Close–Ended Questions

A close ended question is one where the respondent has to select a response from one among the multiple choices offered to him or her.

Types of questions in close ended are Dichotomous, Multiple Choice, Likert Scale, Semantic differential, Importance Scale, Rating Scale, Intention to buy scale.

Unstructured questionnaires include open–ended (are ones that require more than one word answers) and vague opinion–type. questions. May be questions are not in the format of interrogative sentences and the moderator or the enumerator has to elaborate the sense of the question.

Un–structured questionnaire collect qualitative data. The answers could come in the form of a list, a few sentences or something longer such as a speech, paragraph or essay. Researcher is not aware of the phenomenon or behavior well and need to probe for this, and then open ended questions are used. Type of Questions in open ended are completely unstructured, word association, sentence completion, story completion, picture, Thematic Apperception test.

Qualitative Measures

Various Popular methods used in the qualitative techniques are

Word Association

To identify the range of possible brand associations, ask the subject what comes in mind when they hear the brand’s name.

Projective Techniques

Give subject an incomplete or ambiguous stimulus and ask them to complete or explain it.


Visualization requires people to create a collage from magazine photos or drawings to depict their perceptions.

Brand Personification

Here the subjects are asked what do they think if the brand were to come alive as a person; what it would be like; what it would do; where it would live; what would it talk about ?


Ask “why” you want to purchase a particular brand only. Why questions can reveal consumer goals.

Certain Steps are to be followed while designing Questionnaire

Step 1 Preliminary issue like research objectives, target respondents,\etc.

Step 2 Decision on issues to be probed/asked.

Step 3 Decision on response format, i.e. whether close–ended or open–ended response.

Step 4 Wording/Style of the questions and what to avoid

Step 5 Sequencing the questions.

Step 6 Conditions of questions.

Step 7 Pre–test, revise (if need be), and finalize.


Sampling is nothing but selection of the accurate representation of a unit, group or sample from a population of interest. The process of selection or the drawing of the accurate representation of a unit, group or sample from a population of interest is called as sampling.

Sampling can be done through various sampling techniques in accordance with the nature of the sample as well as the subject matter of the study. It is the Sampling procedure, which will decide the accurate representation of the sample selected for the study as well as the relevance of generalization made from the research.


Population is also referred as universe. Broadly, Population can be explain as a comprehensive group of individuals, institutions, objects and so forth which have a common characteristics that are the interest of a researcher. The common characteristics of the groups distinguish them from other individual, institutions, objects and so forth.


Researcher proposed to conduct a study on awareness and use of ICT among the secondary school teachers in Ahmedabad, the entire secondary school teaching community in Ahmedabad constitutes as the population of the study. Population can be finite and infinite. Population which can be easily counted is known as finite and the unknown and limited number of population is known as infinite.


Medical Student of Ahmedabad District is finite population and the adolescents, youths in Ahmedabad can be treated as examples for infinite population, though they can be counted but in complex procedure.


It is a part of the population or universe. In marketing research projects, practically it is not possible for a researcher to approach all the individuals\elements in a population for the purpose of data collection. Instead they select and approach a representative group of individuals/elements who falls under the particular population to collect needed information regarding the group.

Based on the results, the researcher generalizes the characteristics of the representative group as the characteristics of population. This small group or representative group from a population is called as sample. So sample can be defined as the small portion of a population selected for a particular study.

The sample should clearly represent the characteristics of intended group. According to Young “A statistical sample is a miniature picture of cross selection of the entire group or aggregate from which the sample is taken”. The process of conducting a survey to collect data from a sample is called sample survey. The value which is identified or measured from the characteristics of the sample can be termed as statistic.

Developing sample design has the following components

  • Choosing the Sampling Unit : Whom should we survey ? (who all among the elements of the population are to be surveyed).
  • Choosing Sample Size : How many people should we survey ?
  • Choosing Sampling Procedure : How to ensure that those who\ are to be questioned get included in the sample).
  • Choosing Sample Size : How many people should we survey ?Choosing the Sampling Media : how to reach the respondents in the sample–through mail interview,personal interview, or telephone interview.

Sampling Methods

Broadly two methods, fall under two broad categories Probability/Random sampling and Non–Probability/Non Random Sampling :

Probability/Random sampling

In Probability/Random sampling, samples are selected at random. Random means selecting the units “free of bias” Random sampling follows a precisely specified system, where there is no scope for any biased selection of the sample unit. Randomness ensures that the selection of the units takes place by sheer chance.

It means that every member of the population has equal chance or probability of being selected. Example : in a population of 1000 members, every member will have a 1/1000 chance of being selected to be a part of a sample. Probability sampling eliminates bias in the population and gives all members a fair chance to be included in the sample.

Non–Probability/Non Random Sampling

Non random sampling techniques are the techniques in which the researchers select the samples from the population without randomization. Here the samples might have selected at the discretion of the researcher. In this sampling there is no means of judging the probability of the element or group of elements, of population being included in the sample.Let’s study different methods of probability sampling :

Let’s study different methods of probability sampling

  • Simple random sampling
  • Systematic random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling

Simple Random Sampling

All items of the population have equal chances of being selected in the sample. Lottery is one of the methods of selecting a simpler random sample. Example, in an organization of 500 employees, if the HR team decides on conducting team building activities, it is highly likely that they would prefer picking chits out of a bowl. In this case, each of the 500 employees has an equal opportunity of being selected.

Systematic sampling

Systematic sampling involves selecting every nth unit form the population after the beginning unit is selected at random. The interval n is fixed by dividing the population by sample size. Example, if the population of 500 members and a sample of 50 members is required, interval will be fixed as 500/50 = 10.

Thus, every tenth unit from the previously ordered population will be taken to get the systematic sample of 50 elements. Normally, the start is fixed by selecting a random number – in the above case, between l and 10, if happens to be 5, every tenth number from it, i.e 15, 25, 35 and so on would be selected to get the systematic random sample required.

Systematic sampling can increase the sample’s representativeness when the population elements can be ordered in some pattern, with regard to the characteristic being investigated.

Stratified sampling

In stratified random sampling,elements are in the population are divided into homogeneous group called strata. Then, researchers use the simple random sampling method to select a sample from each of the strata. Each group is called stratum.

In stratified random sampling, stratum should be relatively homogenous and the strata should contrast with each other. This process of dividing heterogeneous populations into relatively homogeneous groups is called stratification.

Cluster sampling

Cluster sampling is a method where the researchers divide the entire population into sections or clusters that represent a population. Clusters are identified and included in a sample based on demographic parameters like age, sex, location, etc. This makes it very simple for a survey creator to derive effective inference from the feedback.

Example, if the United States government wishes to evaluate the number of immigrants living in the Mainland US, they can divide it into clusters based on states such as California, Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado, Hawaii, etc. This way of conducting a survey will be more effective as the results will be organized into states and provide insightful immigration data.

Non–Probability/Non Random Sampling

Non–probability methods of sampling are of the following types :

  • Convenience sampling
  • Quota sampling
  • Judgement sampling
  • Panel sampling

Convenience Sampling

Here sample is selected on the convenience of the researcher. Quite often accessibility decides the selection of the sample For example an investigator who is doing research on the topic of awareness of ICT of students of class X and he may take students of same class as sample for his study, because he has been the teacher of the same class and happens to be friendly with the class.

This is what is called as convenience sampling. Such samples are easily available and economical but it makes systematic errors and may leads to false generalizations. Convenience sampling is also called as haphazard as well as accidental sampling.

EcoQuota Sampling

It is also an example of non probability sampling. Under quota sampling the interviewers are simply given quotas to be filled from the different strata, with some restrictions on how they are to be filled. In other words, the actual selection of the items for the samples is left to the interviewer’s discretion.

This type of sampling is very convenient and is relatively inexpensive. For example, consider the situation where an interviewer has to survey people about a cosmetic brand. His population is people in a certain city between 35 and 45 years old. The interviewer might decide they want two survey subgroups – one male, and the other female – each with 100 people.

(These subgroups are mutually exclusive since people cannot be male and female at the same time.) After choosing these subgroups, the interviewer has the liberty to rely on his convenience or judgment factors to find people for each subset. For example, the interviewer could stand on the street and interview people who look helpful until he has interviewed 100 men and 100 women.

Or he can interview people at his workplace who fit the subgroup criteria.nomical but it makes systematic errors and may leads to false generalizations. Convenience sampling is also called as haphazard as well as accidental sampling.

Judgement Sampling

Judgmental sampling, also called purposive sampling or authoritative sampling. In this sampling researcher relies on his or her own judgment when choosing members of population to participate in the study. Researchers often believe that they can obtain a representative sample by using a sound judgment, which will result in saving time and money”.

Example :

TV reporters stopping certain individuals on the street in order to ask their opinions about certain political changes constitutes the most popular example of this sampling method. However, it is important to specify that the TV reporter has to apply certain judgment when deciding who to stop on the street to ask questions; otherwise it would be the case of random sampling technique.

Panel Sampling

In this method,members are selected to a panel and they become an almost permanent sample for drawing specific information on selected subjects. There can be many kinds of panels such as consumer panels, expert panels, etc. Panel members are approached either personally or through mail for eliciting information.

Contact Methods

Panel members are recruited consciously; they are not selected at random. In this sense,they cannot accurately represent a whole market.Where the purpose does not call for randomness of respondents,the use of panels will be in order. Panels are widely used to measure shifts in buying patterns, brand loyalties etc.Market Researcher must decide how to contact the subjects via mail, telephone, in person or online.

Collecting the information

Collecting information is very expensive and an error prone. As subject may be living far, away from home, or inaccessible, they must be contacted again or changed. Sometime respondent do not cooperate or give dishonest answers.

Analysing the information

In this step, findings are extracted by tabulating data and developing summary measure. Some statistical techniques and decision models are also applied.

Presenting the findings

Here data and information are translated into insights and recommendation for Marketing and Chief Executives of the Company. Without doing research organisation will not succeed. In order to know the customer formal research is conducted by the marketer.

Application of the Marketing Research

Marketing research finds application in a variety of business situations. Some examples are given below:

Types of ResearchAreas of Application
Consumer ResearchConsumer Behaviour
Buying influences
Consumer Profiles
Consumer database
Brand Switching
Satisfaction Studies
Market/Demand ResearchMarket potential.size
Market profile
Market share
Market segments
Market Surveys
Sales forecasting
Demand Survey
Product/Brand researchProduct usage study
Product line, design
Testing new products
Brand tracking
Brand Preference
Competition researchCompetition analysis
Competitive Structure
Competitors product, prices,
promotion, channel policies and
selling methods
Distribution researchEfficacy of various types of
marketing intermediaries
Dealers reaction to the company
and its products
Efficacy of different modes of
transportation warehousing
efficiency study
Distribution cost analysis
Price researchEvaluation of pricing strategy
Assessing pricing pattern of the
Measuring price elasticity of
Advertising and
promotion research
Media research
Appraisal of ad campaigns
Motivation research
Efficacy of sales promotional
Sales Methods ResearchTesting new sales programmes
Analyzing sales problems
Sales territory analysis
Effectiveness of sales force
Sales compensation study
Target fixation
Testing sales forecasting and
budgeting methods

Limitation of Marketing Research

Marketing research has some limitations, which must be kept in mind by marketing people and researchers. The limitations are given below :

  • Marketing research provides only the indicators. It does not by itself provide the final solution to the problems. It also qualifies its final findings with assumptions.

  • There are chances of errors creeping in the findings of marketing research. Errors can creep in at various stages of the research in the sampling procedure, in the choice of research methodology and in the research design itself. Errors can also occur at the computation and analysis stage.

  • Very often it is found that the marketing research process is very expensive unaffordable to many small companies.

  • Marketing research has a limitation in terms of the time well. The nature of marketing in a competitive world calls for quick decision and solution. If Marketing research involves undue delays and time lags, then the solutions obtained become irrelevant in the changed scenario.

  • Research findings are made with reference to a given marketing effort, known performance of competitors, known policies of government, etc. lf any one or more these factors change, the result of the research may become invalid.

  • Marketing research often has the tendency to overrate the usefulness of its own findings.As in statistics all numerical data have their limitations. Also, there are many qualitative and subjective factors which cannot be quantified.

  • Sometimes the person interviewed may not furnish the correct information or may refuse to cooperate.

Ethics in Marketing Research

The way marketing research is conducted and the reasons for conducting research could raise many ethical issues.


Data collection could become an invasion of privacy. People are observed using hidden cameras, purchase behaviour studied using scanner data and credit’ card use data, and Internet activity is tracked using ‘cookies’. There is always strong temptation for managers to misuse access to private information. Similarly, customer databases provide businesses and could be sold for a profit.


Collection of information could be annoying and inconvenient for respondents. Often, interviews, both personal and over telephone, become intrusive.


Occasionally, researchers use deception to collect data. Acting as potential customer falsely, some persons collect data from businesses. Other researcher pretends to be shoppers and ask fellow shoppers their opinions of products or brands.

False Representation

Practices called “sugging”, i.e., selling under the guise of research and “frugging”,i.e., fund–raising under the guise of research are very common, which tarnish the image of legitimate researchers. In order to avoid such unethical practices and safeguard the public, marketing research ethics (code of conduct} have been drawn up by the American Marketing Association which covers the following areas;

  • Privacy of data to be ensured.
  • Prohibiting selling or fund–raising under the guise of conducting research.
  • Maintaining research integrity by avoiding misrepresentation and omission by pertinent data.
  • Treating outside clients and suppliers fairly.

The area of ethics in marketing research is very important and concerns the rights of number of parties. Marketing researchers should be conscious of and respect the right of research subjects as well as the general public


What is Marketing Research

Marketing Research is the systematic gathering, recording and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services. Market Research studies a target market. It collects data about that market place and the consumers within it.

Ethics in Marketing Research

The way marketing research is conducted and the reasons for conducting research could raise many ethical issues.

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