So how can you ensure the Market Research you commission does the job you want it to do and cover its cost with extra revenue generated as a result?
First let’s just cover some basics.
There are two types of Market Research, Qualitative and Quantitative.
Qualitative Research comprises
Individual / Paired / Trio depth interviews
In home ethnography studies
Main objectives of Qualitative Research is to gain understanding of
Your brand or property
Your consumer and / or purchaser
The relationship between the two
Main use of Qualitative Research is to identify
New product opportunities in your existing market
New markets for existing products
New markets for new products
How to leverage your competitive strengths to gain market share with existing products in your existing market
Quantitative Research involves questionnaires which are administered in the street or using a High Street venue (Hall test) to a large sample (c350-500) in order to provide statistically valid data
Main objectives of Quantitative Research is to gain competitive knowledge of
Main uses are to enable you to make informed decisions based on a statistically valid sample regarding ‘ the 4 P’s’
- which products to launch
- to whom (age , gender, country / region)
- how product should be positioned (described) to gain competitive advantage
- which channel eg stores, internet etc
- which shops
- promotional and advertising message to use
- media to select
In my experience over many years Licensing clients tend to be ‘wow’ed by the idea of watching their consumers in focus groups. Indeed it is very exciting to hear consumers talking about your brand but be aware that these focus groups give you insight and cannot be relied on to make decisions. By far the best choice is to initially start with some focus groups, perhaps homing in on your core target market to gain insight on new concepts but then follow up with Quantitative to enable you to verify how these insights translate into purchase intention across a wider market.
To give you an idea of cost, a ‘four group’ project in one country or market costs around £10K. This should be sufficient to cover your core market although for kids’ products we often conduct six groups, as we like to separate gender and age more discreetly. The cost is about the same as the kids groups are shorter. Mums groups tend to last two hours and kids groups one hour.
Another appealing alternative to focus groups is the ‘ accompanied shop’ This entails the researcher asking consumers at point of purchase (with retailers consent) a series of semi – structured questions relating to the product or product concept in a competitive environment. This is more realistic than a focus group and enables the researcher to consider views of the purchasing group e.g. family, teenage friendship groups etc as well as the full competitive environment with its accompanying pressures of time, price, special offers, merchandising etc. Costs are similar to the focus group scenario but output tends to be less in depth but strategically invaluable. .
Some projects require more sensitivity, an understanding of the home environment, behaviour in home and more time with an individual eg babycare/ feeding etc. The researcher spends a day with a mum and baby and observes processes such as food preparation and feeding. This is costly but is a project often shared with company marketing personnel to enable them to gain valuable understanding of their product portfolio of the product ‘in use’.
Other forms of Qualitative Research may involve in – depth interviews face to face or over the telephone. As with other Qualitative methodologies, questioning is semi – structured , allowing plenty of opportunity for the respondent (consumer or purchaser) to volunteer insights they feel are relevant. It also enables the researcher to use non-directive questioning to explore deeper, using drawing and games, collages, mood boards etc
In some cases Qualitative Research alone may be sufficient to move the project forward but in most cases at some point Quantitative Research is necessary to enable decisions to be made following insights generated by the Qualitative Research. Remember Qualitative Research is not a representative sample but Quantitative should be.
Other more cost – effective methodologies used for multi country projects are Omnibus surveys and online surveys but these don’t offer the opportunity to include open ended questions e.g. ‘Why do you say that?’ or ‘What do you like about….?’ . This isn’t a problem if extensive Qualitative has already been conducted as this understanding is already in place.
Market Research Agencies will provide you, free of charge, a Research Proposal based on your brief and ideally you should get two or three agencies to tender for any project so you can consider their approach and compare them for value for money, understanding of the brief and experience in your market.
When commissioning a Market Research Survey it is important to give your agency as much information as possible. I know it may be tempting to hold back on some of the political issues, diverging corporate views and other contentious issues but unless the agency is fully in the picture, they cannot do the best job for you. The agency should be working ‘with you’ rather than ‘for you’ as part of your Marketing team. You should give the agency the following information as a minimum.
What has triggered the decision to conduct this research?
Why is it being done now?
What is the hypothesis that they want to test?
What level of accuracy do you need e.g. is it insight you need or figures?
What decisions will be made based on the research?
Markets in which you want to research
Profile of consumers / purchasers
Whilst you may be reluctant to give the agency an idea of budget in the belief that they’ll spend the maximum for you, this is counter productive. Quantitative Research is significantly more expensive then Qualitative so if your research objectives indicate Quantitative e.g. you have mentioned Brand awareness, they will have to do this Quantitatively. You will therefore get a high quote when perhaps Brand Awareness was not a key objective.
It is also important to send them samples of the product and competitive product, as this will enable the agency to get a better picture of the market for the product and your brand position in it.
Background information they should also have would include
Company brand and product portfolio
Brand history and past research findings
Detailed information about your consumers and purchasers e.g. what is there about this product that appeals to them and why
Channels of distribution
Once the agency has been selected, costs and timing agreed, there would be a detailed briefing meeting usually at your offices to fully brief the agency on the project. You should insist that the moderator or researcher conducting the project be at this meeting. Important aspects to cover at the briefing meeting are
Recruitment criteria (who do you want in the sample)
Stimuli (what will we show them and in what format)
It is not possible to provide a recording of the groups after the research unless this has been agreed at recruitment due to data protection laws protecting the confidentiality of the respondents so this should be clarified at the briefing.
The agency will invoice you on commission usually 50% of the value of the contract, as they will immediately begin working on your project. The agency will keep you informed on progress and you should attend fieldwork and encourage your team to do so too.
Some clients particularly in the US like to produce long lists of questions for the Qualitative Research although the US has now started to follow the UK model of a more informal approach using a checklist of issues to cover rather than specific questions. Increasingly clients are involved in the focus groups and will be asked at the end whether they have any specific questions not already covered.
For Quantitative surveys there will probably be several drafts of the questionnaire for each market and sometimes this can result in mistakes and typos being missed as client teams concentrate on content. It is therefore important that the agency pilot the questionnaire before fieldwork starts to ensure that any mistakes are picked up.
Before the first day of fieldwork, whether Qualitative or Quantitative it is your responsibility to ensure your team is fully briefed on what is taking place and given the opportunity to add any issues they feel have been omitted from the checklist agreed between you and the agency.
It is essential in multi country projects that you decide who will project manage. This is an additional cost and tends to be incurred when the company commissioning the research does not have a Research Manager. To ensure consistency of methodology and analysis and therefore usability of the end research, a project manager needs to ensure the needs of all markets are considered, that terminology is correct, language versions of discussion guide/checklist / questionnaire are correct , competitive products and pricing is correct in each market and that samples and stimuli are distributed in time for fieldwork. Ideally the project manager should visit each market to watch at least the first group in each set or hall day. Nowadays this is facilitated by web streaming which is available in most viewing facilities and enables the team to watch the groups live online and ask questions which are then relayed to the moderator.
In my opinion, analysis of research tends to be undervalued.. Clients often seem to feel that having attended a few groups or hall days they know what the findings are. However, an experienced Researcher will be able to effectively feed what he or she hears and sees through a filter of experience and interpret the findings based on this.
The output from research should be
Debrief to the team with PowerPoint presentation (bullet points possibly also with some video clips)
Full report (usually also PowerPoint) shortly afterwards
Lastly, check that your Market Research Agency is a full member of the MRS – Market Research Society – as this ensures that they are complying with quality and legal requirements and that they are professionally qualified.
Judy Bartkowiak is the author of ‘Secrets of Success in Brand Licensing’ and ‘Learn Market Research in a Week’. She is MD at Kids Brands Europe Ltd and has been working in Market Research for 20 years and in Licensing for the last 10 years. Clients include Lego, Mattel, Spinmaster, Zapf Creations, Tomy, Little Tikes, VTech, Woolworth’s, Entertainment Rights, Aardman Animations and many others. She can be contacted on 00 44 1628 660618 and email firstname.lastname@example.org