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Primary research is concerned with the design and implementation of original research; that is, data collected from the source. The advantage of doing primary research is that you can get information on the specific question or problem you need answered, not information that merely applies to your industry or type of business in general.
Primary research is generally divided into two categories: "experimental" research and "non-experimental" research.
Experimental research. Experimental research is where the researcher controls and manipulates elements of the research environment to measure the impact of each variable. For example, a group of test subjects (who are consumers meeting certain criteria, such as frequent users of the particular product or service in question) is shown several television commercials, and after each one the group is asked questions designed to measure the likelihood that they'll purchase the product advertised.
Experimental research is often used by large consumer goods companies to test:
- the effectiveness of new advertising, or competitors' advertising
- the effect of various prices on sales of a product
- consumer acceptance of new products in trial and repeat-purchase levels
- the effect of different package designs on sales
Experimental research is further divided into two groups:
- laboratory studies, where virtually all variables are controlled except the one being tested, and testing is generally done on the premises of the research company
- field studies, where testing is done in the "real world," often by test marketing the product in a few locations to see whether consumers will buy it
As a practical matter, most small companies bypass expensive laboratory studies and utilize the real market environment to conduct field studies, at less cost than larger companies.
Non-experimental research. Non-experimental research is research done in the normal course of business, where the environment cannot be as closely controlled as in experimental research. Also the many variables of the "business" can't be as easily isolated. This research centers on measuring the entirety of a project rather than its separate parts.
Non-experimental research is divided into two categories:
- qualitative research, which seeks to obtain many subjective reactions from a limited number of test subjects
- quantitative research, which seeks to obtain the reactions of many test subjects to a limited number of questions
Non-experimental research is often used by companies to test:
- buyer responses to new products and product improvements (qualitative)
- buyer evaluation of advertising, packaging, and brand positioning (qualitative)
- effect of a 10 percent price increase on buyer purchase intent (quantitative)
- testing of a new formula against a similar competitive formula (quantitative)