Data Collection Methodologies: What works and when

Primary market research is aimed towards Data Collection from a company’s direct customers or potential customers. Data Collection means the researcher to get in direct contact with the customer collect feedback from every aspect: socially, emotionally, culturally, rationally, economically, etc. There are multiple ways a researcher collects data in a Primary Research. Each of them has their own merits and a researcher has to carefully choose a methodology when they design the Survey.

Below are the various methodologies of Primary Research:

When it comes to studying consumer behaviour in a retail outlet, observation can bring out the most valuable Consumer Insights. In this format, the researcher do not engage into direct conversation with the customers but watch them silently from a distance. The researcher observes how the customer is behaving, talking, making a purchase decision. These brings out insights about customer behaviour and Decision Making Process that can be incorporated in Business and Marketing Strategies at multiple levels.

Paid Surveys by Postal Mail

This used to be a very popular mode of survey but has lost its sheen in recent days due to high cost, low response rate and advent of digital medium. However, many Prints Publishers like Magazine Publishers etc. still follow the process where a Survey form is mailed to the user. The user then fills up the form and sends it back to the researcher at a given address. The survey process is helpful to remove any interviewer bias since the interviewer is not in direct contact with the respondent. Also, it helps cover a specific geographical location via Pin code and thereby can bring insights about consumers of a particular locality.

Telephone interviews OR CATI Surveys

Customers are given a call on their phone and asked specific close ended questions in these cases. These can be human driven or automated. Many service companies, automobile manufacturers, insurance service providers depend on Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing Surveys to gather valuable Consumer Insights on their product and service. However, the method is challenging as consumers are often wary of being called and may be reluctant to give anything other than short answers.

Online Surveys or CAWI Surveys

This is probably the most popular survey route picked up by small and medium enterprises including many start-ups. Similar to a Postal Survey the mode of sending the questionnaire in this is Online. The method is very cost effective especially since designing a survey questionnaire and sending it across to consumers can happen literally at zero cost. However, unless researchers are using an Online Panel of Paid Online Surveys, Online Surveys can often lack credibility due to the lack of proper profiling of the respondents.

Face-to-face surveys or CAPI/TAPI Surveys

This is a costly but most insightful Primary research method. In this case the surveyor meets the consumer or potential consumer face to face and takes their feedback on a set of questions. While many companies choose to catch the customers in middle of their shopping experiences in a market, mall or retail outlet, many others approach the consumer at their home after a proper appointment.

Another popular method of doing CAPI interviews in Centralised location. Usually Research Agencies have their own or rent out a place like Banquet Hall, A room with two-way mirror viewing facility or a household venue in a residential area. They recruit respondents outside the venue and brings them to the facility to take the surveys basis of the survey criteria. Usually a gift is given to each respondent once they successfully fill up the surveys.

CAPI surveys are done where Internet Penetration is low or Researchers need representative sample of each Social Economic Class.
Focus groups

These are profiled volunteers put together to do a Group Discussion on a specific given topic eg. How important is the colour of the soap to you or on a specific Automobile Model or on Any new upcoming product. The group discussion among these targeted group members bring out insights about their tastes and preferences. Focused group surveys are also done to gather feedback about a particular existing to to-be-launched product.

Test marketing

This involves selling or giving samples to a select set of customers picked up geographically, randomly or hand-picked through exact profiling. Selling the new product in a small section of the market in order helps to assess customer reaction before final launch. The process is not only followed in case of physical products but online products like websites, apps, software where it is often called a “Beta Version Launch”.