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Consumer behavior research allows a company to gather consumer data for business use. The data can help a company market its products, set public policy to increase consumer awareness, inform consumers or simply learn about individual consumption. The two main ways to conduct consumer behavior research are primary and secondary strategies. Primary methods include surveys, focus groups, online research or scanner data. Secondary methods use research data gathered by other companies for the behavior research process.
Surveys might be sent to consumers through the mail or conducted over the telephone, through in-person interviews or via online methods. This allows for direct information straight from each consumer who purchases or will purchase a product. These options might be easier to prepare and less expensive. Companies can select their method based on cost and which one allows for the most accurate data possible. Switching methods is also possible because of the one-time use of these methods.
Focus groups typically are the next step in consumer behavior research methods. Companies can select a few people to come in and discuss goods or services. This allows for immediate comments and feedback, but it is often more expensive and takes time to organize. Additionally, most companies use smaller sample sizes because of the cost involved with this method. Attempting to make large, generalizing statements from such a small group is also impossible, which is a significant drawback for this method.
Online research has become more common with new software options. Consumer behavior research can either gather data from search engines or use direct questions for information gathering. Though it is less expensive than other methods, there are two significant drawbacks. First, this process allows for only specific information gathering and little or no feedback from consumers. Second, consumers who do not shop online shop or do not have the technical know-how to complete Internet surveys will not be included in the group.
Scanner data is an older method for gathering information based on consumer behavior research. As customers make purchases or use coupons, retail stores often use electronic scanners to read bar codes. Companies can gather this information and learn about what products are most commonly bought in a region or with other products. One problem with this method is that the company limits its data to goods purchased by consumers. Additionally, there are no comments, feedback or other data gathered outside of the products purchased by consumers, making this a potentially uninformative research process.