Consumer Behavior Research Methods

Every marketer must learn about the consumer decision-making process and the factors influencing consumers to design their products and services correctly, set prices, choose distribution channels, and create promotional messages. As a result, a new field known as consumer research has emerged. Consumer research findings assist marketers in predicting how customers will react to promotional messaging and understand why they make the purchases they do. Consumer research assists marketers in studying and comprehending their customers' requirements and desires, as well as how they make purchasing decisions.

Research Methods Consumer Psychology

Consumer psychologists often research to learn more about buyer behavior. Standard research methods used by these professionals include experiments, telephone surveys, focus groups, direct observation, and questionnaires. This trend, which started after the Recession, led to the discovery of various research methods that can be applied to consumer psychology, discussed below −

There are two main methods of marketing. Secondary research involves using information that others have already collected. For example, if you are planning to start a clothing business for tall people, you do not need to ask people what their height is to know how tall people are - the US government has released that information. On the other hand, primary research is research that you design and conduct yourself. For example, you may need to know if consumers prefer carbonated or carbonated beverages.


Surveys are useful for obtaining large amounts of specific information. Surveys may contain open-ended questions (e.g., "What city and state were you born in? ____________") or closed questions, in which respondents are asked to choose an answer from a short list. (eg: "__Male ___Female." Open Closed questions have the advantage that the respondent is not limited to the choices listed, and the respondent is not affected when viewing the list of answers. However, respondents often need to pay more attention to open-ended questions, and coding them can take much work. In general, sample sizes larger than 100 are often required for surveys to generate meaningful answers because Accuracy is essential. For example, if a 20% market share leads to a loss while 30% will result in a profit, then a 20-35% confidence interval is too broad to be useful.

Focus groups

Focus groups are helpful when a marketer wants to launch or modify a new product. A focus group typically consists of 8-12 people who meet in a room to discuss consumer preferences and experiences. The group is usually led by a moderator, who will begin by speaking broadly on product-related topics without mentioning the product itself.

For example, a group focused on sugar-free cookies might initially focus on consumers' snacking preferences, only gradually moving toward the specific product of sugar-free cookies. Not mentioning the product in advance avoids making participants think only of the advertised product. So, instead of forcing consumers to think primarily about a product's good or bad, we can ask them to discuss the end benefits they are looking for more broadly.

For example, instead of asking consumers to discuss their thoughts on some of the sugar-free cookies we plan to market, we could ask consumers to talk about their motivations for using them. Snacks and the kinds of common interests they are looking for. Such a discussion can reveal health concerns and desires for healthy foods.

For example, by questioning the implications of safety, consumers may indicate a desire to avoid artificial ingredients. This would be a significant concern in the marketing of sugar-free cookies. However, it might not be raised if consumers were asked to comment directly on the product when artificial ingredients needed to be used.

A personal interview

Involves asking in-depth questions of an individual about their preferences or experience with a product. The advantage here is that we can drill down (when respondents say something interesting, we can ask them to expand), but this research method is expensive. It can be exceptionally quickly—biased by the interviewer.

There is also an emphasis on consumer preferences and what influences their purchasing behavior.

Consumer Research Process

The major steps in consumer research process include the following −

Defining the Objectives of the Research

The first stage in this approach is to identify the study's objectives. Is it to ascertain consumer attitudes or experiences of the event? Or is it to ascertain what proportion of consumers use event planners to organize family, social, or religious gatherings? Understanding these goals will assist a research manager in ensuring that the research design is appropriate.

Collecting and Evaluating Secondary Data

A search for secondary data follows the listing of objectives. Secondary information is any data created for purposes other than the current study's aims. Secondary data includes data generated in-house (within the event company) for previous studies, analysis of customer files, historical consumer transactions, letters from consumers, sale-call reports, consumer lifetime value profiles, and data acquired via warranty cards. Furthermore, data supplied by government organizations concerning the economy, business, and other demographic data and commercial data published by marketing research firms are widely used as secondary data in consumer research.

Designing a Primary Research Study

The objective of the study guides the design of a research project. To achieve the objectives, the methodology (quantitative or qualitative), research design (experimentation, observation, survey, or any other), sample size and selection, data collection method (questionnaires, attitude scale, interview, or any other suitable method), evaluation and interpretation techniques (for example, projective analysis, consumer satisfaction measurement), and sample size and selection will be governed by the study's purpose.

Collecting Primary Data

Typically, trained field researchers acquire primary data. In-depth interviews, focus group discussions, projective techniques, and metaphor analysis are qualitative studies' primary data collection approaches. These methods are frequently used in the early stages of attitude research to identify relevant products or services and beliefs or attitudes. Customer satisfaction is measured using a customer satisfaction survey and professional observers.

Analyzing the Data

Typically, the researcher codes and quantifies the responses gathered in tabular form. Several statistical approaches are applied to assess this tabulated data, usually with sophisticated computer programs. This assists researchers in obtaining the desired results.

Preparing a Report on the Findings

The research reports are ready to demonstrate the results. The study report may also offer marketing recommendations. The study report contains a detailed discussion of the methodology employed, tables and figures to support the conclusions, and a summary of the findings with or without suggestions.

Ethics in Consumer Research

Consumer researchers must ensure that their studies are impartial and bias-free. Some studies are conducted to support a predetermined conclusion. This is a breach of research ethics. For example, a company may research to determine which of its products or services are the most satisfying to customers. Some researchers frequently utilize biased samples, biased questions, distort statistical analysis, or disregard key information for this reason. Another ethical issue is mistreating respondents by conducting interviews for too long. As a result, an ethical study should be conducted to obtain a conclusion based on unbiased consumer replies. Also, the respondents' privacy must be respected and maintained.


Marketers now hire skilled researchers to investigate consumer behavior using qualitative and quantitative research approaches. Quantitative research is a type of objective research that uses measurable data to generate facts and quantify opinions, behaviors, and attitudes. It collects data through organized surveys, questionnaires, and interviews.

On the other hand, qualitative research is an experimental method used to get insights into various situations, opinions, and underlying causes. Unstructured to semi-structured procedures such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, and projective techniques are examples of qualitative data collection methods. Highly experienced interviewers examine the results, and the results are often subjective. A combination of these techniques is typically employed to investigate consumer behavior.

Updated on: 02-Mar-2023

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