Market Research – 7 steps to developing an excellent quantitative study

Albert Hamilton




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Market research is one of those things everyone thinks they should be able to do.  I mean, how hard is it to draw up a couple of questions, right?  In truth, producing reliable research is straightforward enough, provided you know the rules.

At CARD Group, we’ve devised the mnemonic PHOBIAS to guide our thinking when developing a quantitative market research study.

P is for Priming.  Priming happens when the person you want to talk to has been given information on the topic on which you want to seek their opinion.  Priming can take place before or even during the questionnaire application.  Priming can be useful or leading.  Good judgement on when and how to use it is essential.

H is for Halo.  This can describe how the respondent’s prevailing mood can influence their opinion at that time.  If you have just had a fantastic experience or a terrible one, it’s likely that it will influence all of your answers to a questionnaire.  Designing a questionnaire that removes the halo influence is important to get an accurate set of responses.

O is for Objective.  It sounds obvious but each and every question on the questionnaire needs to provide information towards achieving the objective.  If it doesn’t directly help you achieve your information objective, it will hinder it.  Ensuring you have clearly defined market research objectives takes practise.

B is for Bias.  There are many biases that can influence a questionnaire.  For example, Loading bias is where the question or answer is biased towards a more positive or negative response – “How well did we do?”.  Other biases such as confirmation bias, acquiescence response bias, or psychological principles such as the representativeness heuristic can all unintentionally lead the respondent to agree to a certain way of thinking.  It’s important to know the range of biases to look for.

I is for Integration. Integration describes what you are going to do with the information you have collected.  It concerns designing the questionnaire with a view to how the analysis and reporting will be performed.  This will ensure the information can be quickly and accurately used for its intended purpose.

A is for Artefact.  A statistical artefact is a problem that has been designed into the market research methodology that cannot be analysed out.  It in effect renders the project useless and must be carefully avoided.  Lack of control questions or a control sample to provide a baseline against which to measure the results is a commonly encountered artefact.  There are many others!

S is for Sampling.  The cornerstone of any quantitative research project is ensuring there is a sufficient number of the intended participants.  Sampling can very often go wrong if the sampling strategy has not been devised correctly.  Seeking the opinions of people who will not have access to a product or service, simply because they are easy to reach is a common sampling problem and one that can decimate the accuracy of any research study.

At CARD Group, we have been using our PHOBIAS mnemonic to ensure our projects are as accurate as they can be.  If you need a sounding board to ensure your study has been designed correctly – talk to us.  Many Northern Ireland, UK and Ireland companies already have.

About the author: Albert Hamilton


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