The Marketing Research Process

To take advantage of all the resources and practices available, good marketers adopt a formal marketing research process that follows the six steps shown in Figure 3.1. We illustrate these steps in the following situation. Assume that American Airlines is reviewing new ideas for serving first-class passengers on very long flights, mainly businesspeople whose high-priced tickets pay most of the freight. Among these ideas are: (1) ultra high-speed Wi-Fi service, (2) 124 channels of high-definition satellite cable TV, and (3) a 250-CD audio system that lets each passenger create a customized in-flight playlist. The marketing research manager will investigate how first-class passengers would rate these services, specifically ultra high-speed Wi-Fi, and how much extra they would be willing to pay.

Step 1: Define the Problem, Decision Alternatives, and Research Objectives

Marketing managers must not define the problem too broadly or too narrowly for the marketing researcher. In this case, the researcher and the marketing manager are defining the problem as follows: “Will offering ultra high-speed Wi-Fi service create enough incremental preference and

FiGURE 3.1 The Marketing Research Process

profit to justify its cost against other service enhancements American might make?” They specify five research objectives: (1) What types of first-class passengers would respond most to ultra high-speed Wi-Fi service? (2) How many are likely to use it at different price levels? (3) How many might choose American because of this new service? (4) How much long-term goodwill will this service add to American’s image? (5) How important is ultra high-speed Wi-Fi service to first-class passengers relative to other services, such as a power plug?

Not all research can be this specific. Some is exploratory—its goal is to identify the problem and to suggest possible solutions. Some is descriptive—it seeks to quantify demand, such as how many first-class passengers would purchase ultra high-speed Wi-Fi service at $25. Some research is causal—its purpose is to test a cause-and-effect relationship.

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