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Method makes difference in market research tasks

There is an art to obtaining reliable information as Julie-anne Sprague discovers in the fourth of a five-part series on market research.

THE reliability and accuracy of market research results rests with sound methodologies employed to gather and analyse information.

According to market research companies contacted by WA Business News the methodologies employed will depend on what type of information is being sought and the type of data expected as an outcome.

Market Equity managing director Brent Stewart said the cost of market research increased when more sophisticated methodologies were used and it was therefore important to determine from the outset just what the market research should achieve.

“The main thing is to have a clear understanding of the marketing objectives to determine what methodology to employ,” he said.

“The most important thing is that companies like us understand what their objectives are.

“It is a very complex area but that is not the important part it is that you are confident that you understand the commercial outcome.”

Mr Stewart said methodologies could be broken up into three parts – sampling, technique, and analysis.

He said getting an accurate reflection of the views of the population revolved around surveying a certain number of people.

“For example, if you wanted to get results for the whole Perth adult population you would use a large scale sample,” Mr Stewart said.

“If you are looking at large populations you use a different formula from when you look at small-scale populations but most market research is on large populations.

“What you would do is take a random sample of Perth adults. You would survey 400 people and that would give you 95 per cent accuracy.

If you did a sample of 1,000 people it would bump the accuracy up but only slightly. It would give you plus or minus 3.2 per cent compared to 5 per cent.”

Asset Research managing director Ian McKenzie said as well as ensuring at least 350 to 400 people were surveyed for large population samples it was important to make sure the type of questions would solicit reliable information.

“It is important to make sure that the questions are presented so there is an unbiased result,” he said. 

“Another important point for reliability and accuracy is that you interview the right people in the first place and that you are not excluding a part of the population.

“If you stand in Dalkieth and just ask questions there you will get a different result than if you interviewed people from a less affluent suburb.”

Mr Stewart said that the Internet was becoming a popular form of data collection but determining what medium to use was again bound to what research was being conducted.

“There are data collection methodologies. Within that you have a host of options. There are qualitative and quantitative methodologies,” he said.

“Qualitative looks at content rich information. It is good in-depth information but is not so concerned about having to relate that back to a whole population.

“You might do in-depth interviews one on one or focus groups where you have a professional moderator to facilitate several respondents or you might have paired interviews.

“Quantitative is doing a survey of large scale samples and there are different ways to collect the data. You can use phone, online, mail, face-to-face and door-to-door. What information you are seeking will determine which one to use.

“Online is growing in popularity. IT is a great tool for employee surveys because it guarantees anonymity, it can be done in their own time and the results can be automated.

“The phone is by far and away the most popular technique but a lot of phone work is now being migrated to the Internet.”

Mr Stewart said the third methodology used by market research companies, the analysis, could be extremely varied. However, more sophisticated techniques produced more definitive answers or results that could form the basis of marketing decisions.

He said that costs of market research increased when more sophisticated analytical methodologies were used.

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