OBSERVATION, FOCUS GROUPS, AND OTHER
1. Establish the need for marketing research
2. Define the problem
3. Establish research objectives
4. Determine research design
5. Identify information types and sources
6. Determine methods of accessing data
7. Design data collection forms
8. Determine sample plan and size
9. Collect data
10. Analyze data
11. Prepare and present the final research report
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Three Means of Data Collection
1. Quantitative Research – involves a structured
questionnaire and a large sample.
2. Qualitative Research – involves observing and/or
asking open-ended questions, usually with a small
number of informants.
3. Pluralistic Research – combines the advantages of
both qualitative research and quantitative research,
with the former serving as the foundation for the
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Observation Methods – techniques in which the
researcher relies on his or her powers of observation
rather than communicating with a respondent in order to
1. Direct vs. Indirect
a. Direct Observation – observing behavior as it
b. Indirect Observation – the researcher observes
the effects or results of the behavior rather than
the behavior itself.
i. Archives – secondary sources such as
historical records that can be applied in the
present problem. (e.g. records of sales calls,
warehouse inventory movements, scanner
ii. Physical Traces – tangible evidence of some
event. (e.g. garbology)
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2. Disguised vs. Undisguised
a. Disguised Observation – subjects are unaware
they are being studied (e.g. secret shopper, one-
way mirrors, hidden cameras)
b. Undisguised Observation – subjects are aware
they are being studied (e.g. laboratory settings)
3. Structured vs. Unstructured
a. Structured Observation – the researcher identifies
beforehand which behaviors are to be observed
and recorded. All other behaviors are ignored.
b. Unstructured Observation – places no restriction
on what the observer would note: all behavior in
the episode under study is monitored.
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4. Human vs. Mechanical
a. Human Observation – the observer is a person
hired by the researcher, or perhaps, the observer
is the researcher.
b. Mechanical Observation – substitution of an
observing device for human observer for
accuracy, cost, or functional reasons. (e.g. auto
Appropriate Conditions for the Use of Observation
1. Short Time Interval – the event must begin and end
within a reasonably short time span.
2. Public Behavior – behavior that occurs in a setting the
researcher can readily observe.
3. Faulty Recall – occurs when actions or activities are
so repetitive or automatic that the respondent cannot
recall specifics about the behavior under question.
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Advantages of Observational Data
1. Subjects are ideally unaware, therefore, they react in
a natural manner, giving the researcher insight into
actual, not reported behaviors.
2. No chance for recall error.
3. In some cases, it may be the only way to gain an
accurate picture of the behavior of interest.
4. Less costly.
5. Can be used to supplement and complement other
Limitations of Observational Data
1. Conclusions are usually considered tentative due to
small samples and the need for interpretation.
2. Subjective interpretation.
3. Motivations, attitudes, and other internal conditions
cannot be observed.
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Two Syndromes to Avoid when Doing Qualitative
1. Dracula Syndrome – occurs when you suck all of the
substance out of a few and possibly unrepresentative
2. Frankenstein Syndrome – when you mindlessly
crunch numbers from a survey.
1. A small group of people brought together and guided
by a moderator through an unstructured, spontaneous
discussion about some topic.
2. The goal is to draw out ideas, feelings, and
experiences about a certain issue that would be
obscured or stifled by more structured methods of
3. The moderator serves to focus the discussion on the
topic and does not let the group move off into
tangents or irrelevant points.
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4. Helps a marketer “get in touch” with target customers.
a. To generate ideas – the focus group can be used
as a starting point for new product or service
ideas, uses, or improvements.
b. To understand consumer vocabulary –to stay
abreast of the words and phrases consumers use
when describing one’s product so as to improve
product or service communication with them.
c. To reveal consumer needs, motives, perceptions,
and attitudes on products or services – to refresh
the marketing team as to what customers feel or
think about a product or service.
d. To understand findings from quantitative studies –
to better comprehend data gathered from surveys.
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Operational Questions About Focus Groups
1. What should be the size of a focus group?
The accepted size is 8 to 12 participants.
2. Who should be in the focus groups?
Participants who share similar characteristics:
age, job situations, family composition,
purchase experiences, leisure pursuits
Not friends or casual acquaintances
3. How should focus group participants be recruited and
Incentive is provided for participating
Overrecruiting is one way to deal with “no
shows” – call-backs
4. Where should a focus group meet?
Large room, in roundtable format
Quiet enough to permit audiotaping/ videotaping
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Focus Group Moderator – a person who conducts the
entire session and guides the flow of group discussion
across specific topics desired by the client.
1. Must have excellent observation, interpersonal, and
2. Must be prepared, experienced, and armed with a
detailed list of topics to be discussed.
3. A good moderator is experienced, enthusiastic,
prepared, involved, energetic, and open-minded.
Reporting and Use of Focus Group Results
1. FGD transcripts must be translated before they are
2. Demographic and buyer behavior characteristics of
FGD participants should be judged against the target
market profile to assess to what degree the groups
represent the target market.
3. A focus group analysis should identify the major
themes as well as salient areas of disagreement
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Advantages of FGDs:
1. Generate fresh ideas
2. Allow clients to observe the group
3. Generally versatile
4. Work well with special respondents
Disadvantages of FGDs:
1. May not represent the population
2. Interpretation is subjective
3. Cost-per-participant is high
How to Run a Successful FGD – p. 247
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Other Qualitative Research Techniques
1. A set of probing questions posed one-on-one to a
subject by a trained interviewer so as to gain an idea
of what the subject thinks about something or why he
or she behaves in a certain way.
2. Conducted in the respondent’s home or at a central
interviewing location—e.g. mall intercept facility
3. Of primary importance is the compilation of the data
into a summary report so as to identify common
4. Are especially useful when the researcher wants to
understand decision making on the individual level,
how products are used, or the emotional and
sometimes private aspects of consumers’ lives.
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1. Involves placing a person in a decision making
situation and asking him or her to verbalize everything
he or she considers when making the decision.
2. A special purpose qualitative research technique that
has been developed to peek into the consumer’s
decision making process.
3. A recorder is used. The researcher reviews several
protocols and looks for commonalities such as
evaluative criteria used, number of brands
considered, types and sources of information utilized,
4. Useful in 2 different purchase situations:
a. Purchases involving a long time frame in which
several decision factors must be considered.
b. Where the decision process is very short.
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1. Involve situations in which participants are placed in
simulated activities in the hopes that they will divulge
things about themselves that they might not reveal
under direct questioning.
2. Appropriate in situations in which the researcher is
convinced that respondents will be hesitant to relate
their true opinions—e.g. tipping waitresses, smoking,
alcohol consumption, betting on games
3. Five common techniques
a. Word Association Test
i. Involves reading words to a respondent who
then answers with the first word that comes to
his or her mind.
ii. Used to uncover people’s real feelings about
products or services, brand names, or ad
iii. Response Latency – the time taken to
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b. Sentence Completion Test – respondents are
given incomplete sentences and asked to
complete them in their own words.
c. Picture Test
i. A picture is provided to participants who are
instructed to describe their reactions by
writing a short story about the picture.
ii. Are useful ways to test potential
advertisements for impact and reactions.
d. Cartoon or Balloon Test – a line drawing with an
empty ‘balloon” above the head of one of the
actors is provided to subjects who are instructed
to write in the balloon what the actor is saying or
e. Role Playing Activity – participants are asked to
pretend they are a “third person,” such as a friend
or neighbor, and to describe how they would act in
a certain situation or to a specific statement.
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1. Involves monitoring a respondent’s involuntary
responses to marketing stimuli via the use of
electrodes and other equipment.
2. Pupilometer – a device that attaches to a person’s
head and determines interest and attention by
measuring the amount of dilation in the pupil of the
3. Galvanometer – a device that determines excitement
levels by measuring the electrical activity in the
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