What are the main steps in a market research project?

Learning Centre > What are the main steps in a market research project?

Marketing research is a process that helps us understand people. Here are some steps we take toward understanding others:

  1. Work out what your problem is
  2. Statement of Research Objectives
  3. Planning the Research Design or Designing the Research Study
  4. Planning the Sample
  5. Data Collection
  6. Data Processing and Analysis
  7. Formulating Conclusion, Preparing, and Presenting the Report.

Research lies at the heart of it. Marketing is a scientific discipline. One might even go so far as to call it ‘market sciences’! Being systematic, we plan things out in advance.


Market research can be a bit of a challenge, but with a little help from us, you’ll find it’s just like dancing – there are a few steps involved, but they can be broken down into manageable chunks.


The market research process has many steps. First, you get a big rock and beat it against your head for about eight hours. Then the market research will slowly begin to trickle in in the following drops:


1. Work out what your problem is.

A problem well defined is a problem half solved. The market research process starts with the identification and definition of your problem; it’s a crucial step towards finding a solution.


The statement of the problem may be close to impossible at the beginning of the research process. Without a clear understanding of the problem, the data you collect will be pointless. Data by itself can’t fix problems. That’s why good market research requires insight into your prospects.


A clear problem definition is the cornerstone of any research effort. It keeps you on the right track and saves time and effort.


The methods of explanatory research most commonly in use are the survey of secondary data, experience survey, or pilot studies, that is, studies of a small initial sample. All this is also known as ‘preliminary investigation’, but no one really calls it that.


2. Statement of Research Objectives:

Research objectives are the why. Without them, you’re just taking a stroll through the research park.


Such objectives may be stated in qualitative or quantitative terms and expressed as research questions, statements, or hypotheses. For example, the research objective, “To find out the extent to which sales promotion schemes affected the sales volume” is a research objective expressed as a statement.


A hypothesis is like a wild guess. It’s more of an idea than a theory and can be thrown out or made better at any moment. The same research objective could be stated as, “To test the proposition that sales are positively affected by the sales promotion schemes undertaken this winter.”


An example of another hypothesis may be: “The new packaging pattern has resulted in an increase in sales and profits.”  

Once your objectives are set and hypotheses are written, you’re ready to design your research.


3. Planning the Research Design or Designing the Research Study:

After defining the research problem and deciding the objectives, the research design must be developed. A research design is a master plan specifying the procedure for collecting and analysing the needed information. It represents a framework for the research plan of action.


The objectives of the study are included in the research design to ensure that the data collected are relevant to the objectives. At this stage, the researcher should also determine the type of sources of information needed, the data collection method (e.g., survey or interview), the sampling, methodology, and the timing and possible costs of research.


4. Planning the Sample:

Sampling involves procedures that use a small number of items or parts of the ‘population’ (total items) to make a conclusion regarding the ‘population’. Important questions in this regard are— who is to be sampled as a rightly representative lot? Which is the target ‘population’? What should be the sample size—how large or how small? How to select the various units to make up the sample?


5. Data Collection:

The collection of data relates to the gathering of facts to be used in solving the problem. Hence, methods of market research are essentially methods of data collection.

Data can be secondary, i.e., collected from concerned reports, magazines, and other periodicals, especially written articles, government publications, company publications, books, etc.


Data can be primary, i.e., collected from the original base through empirical research by means of various tools.

There can be broadly two types of sources

(i) Internal sources—existing within the firm itself, such as accounting data, salesmen’s reports, etc.

(ii) External sources—outside the firm.


6. Data Processing and Analysis:

Once data have been collected, these have to be converted into a format that will suggest answers to the initially identified and defined problem. Data processing begins with the editing of data and its coding. Editing involves inspecting the data-collection forms for omission, legibility, and consistency in classification. Before tabulation, responses need to be classified into meaningful categories.

The rules for categorizing, recording, and transferring the data to ‘data storage media’ are called codes. This coding process facilitates manual or computer tabulation. If computer analysis is being used, the data can be key-punched and verified.


Analysis of data represents the application of logic to the understanding of data collected about the subject. In its simplest form analysis may involve the determination of consistent patterns and summarising of appropriate details.


The appropriate analytical techniques chosen would depend upon informational requirements of the problem, characteristics of the research designs, and the nature of the data gathered. The statistical analysis may range from simple immediate analysis to very complex multivariate analysis.


7. Formulating Conclusion, Preparing and Presenting the Report:

The final stage in the marketing research process is that of interpreting the information and drawing conclusions for use in managerial decisions. The research report should clearly and effectively communicate the research findings and need not include complicated statements about the technical aspect of the study and research methods.


Often the management is not interested in details of research design and statistical analysis, but instead, in the concrete findings of the research. If need be, the researcher may bring out his appropriate recommendations or suggestions in the matter. Researchers always want to make sure their work is understandable and useful. If not, it’s just a waste of time.


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