Management-Marketing-Leasing Today – September 2003 Managing Market Research By: Christine A. Menna, SCMD, Crown American Realty Trust Market research is a very important component of any mall marketing program. It can also be a very expensive proposition. While there are many reputable market research firms that specialize in the shopping center industry, it’s important to ask the right questions of any prospective market research supplier before beginning any project. There are six phases to every market research project. They include: 1. Project Design – asking the right questions 2. Sampling Design – asking the right people 3. Questionnaire Design – asking questions the right way 4. Data Collection – obtaining answers to questions 5. Data Analysis – designing analysis based on the study goals 6. Reporting of Results – communicating the results effectively Keep these six phases in mind while you ask yourself some important questions. Your answers will help clarify why you’re doing the research project. • Can you clearly and explicitly state the specific goals of your study? • Is there a good reason to do this study? • How will the research results be used? • What decisions will be made based on the results? • Will these results be feasible? • Is there agreement among key people about the study purpose? Once you’ve determined that market research is in order, then you must decide what type of research must be completed in order to obtain results for your project goals. And it’s time to ask more questions: • Is a survey needed, or can you get your information some other way such as at a library, through secondary research or on the Internet? • What populations do you need to survey, and what’s the best way to reach them? • Do you need to do qualitative or quantitative research? Qualitative research methods include focus groups and in-depth interviews. Information is obtained from a small number of people. This type of research is effective in situations where exploring topics or generating unique ideas is important. Qualitative methods do not provide numeric results that can be generalized to a larger group of people. You may decide to use focus groups or in-depth interviews before quantitative surveys to identify topics to explore, or, you may use focus groups after surveys to probe a particular finding. Quantitative research includes mall, web/email, fax, phone and in-person surveys that obtain information from a carefully selected representative sample of a larger population. This type of research is helpful in situations where decisions require numeric results that can be generalized to the larger population from which the sample was selected. Quantitative surveys are useful in situations where numeric projections are needed such as market share studies, customer satisfaction research, and image and awareness studies. Generally, use quantitative research to: • Examine trends over time • Conduct statistical analyses • Differentiate among groups • Establish relationships among questions • Project results to the population of interest Once you decide on a method of research, the next step to consider is the size of the sample. Do you want to survey everyone in the population (census) or a sample of the population? Keep in mind that the results can only be generalized to the population as you defined it and from the sample that was selected. Before determining the size of your sample, ask yourself these questions: • How accurate do you need to be? Margins of error of plus or minus +/-5%? +/-10%? • How homogeneous is the population? • What confidence level do you need? • What types of analysis will be done with this information? • How many subgroups will you analyze (i.e. age, income, zip codes, etc.)? There are mathematical formulas that can be applied to determine your sample size, but you may be surprised to learn that the number of people you need to survey may not be as large as you think. For example, to gain information from a population of approximately 150,000, your sample size would only need to be approximately 400, with a degree of accuracy of +/-5%. For a smaller (or even more precise) degree of accuracy, the sample size would increase and conversely decrease for a less precise or higher degree of accuracy. Now you’re ready to find the market research firm that’s right for you. When considering a market research supplier, there are still more questions to ask: • Does the supplier have relevant experience? • Does the supplier have an excellent reputation? • Are its references favorable? • Does the supplier offer appropriate services for your project? • Can it achieve a high response rate? • Is the cost appropriate for the value received? • Can the supplier complete your project within your time frame? • Will the supplier meet your service expectations? After you’ve asked yourself all the important questions, hired a market research firm and began your project; it’s time to ask the survey participants the final questions that will give you the information you need to improve the efficiency of the marketing at your center as well as valuable input in making redevelopment, leasing and operations decisions.