Consumer Behavior - Research Paradigm

Research signifies the practice of gathering new or existing information to enhance one’s knowledge. Consumer Research is a form of applied sociology that is concerned with understanding the behaviors of consumers in a market based economy.

Usually what we notice is that, consumers generally hesitate to reveal the basic reason behind purchasing a particular product. Here, researchers use two different types of research methodologies to study consumer behaviors −

  • Quantitative Research
  • Qualitative Research

According to the traditional business paradigms, researchers thought that consumers are logical and they act rationally to take calculative decisions and maximize their benefits. They thought consumers purchase the most beneficial product at the lowest possible cost.

Researchers have recently realized that, consumers are not always rational and are not always aware of the decisions they make.

In 1939, a Viennese Psychologist Ernest Dichter used Freudian Psychoanalytic techniques to uncover the hidden motives of consumers. It is a dynamic theory of personality of human beings that arrives from unconscious drives and wishes.

By late 1950's most consumer researchers adopted Ernest Dichter's technique, which was called "Motivational Research" essentially a qualitative approach.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is the application of quantitative research techniques while carrying out the research process. This method is used to predict the consumer behavior and is descriptive in nature. It consists of experiments, survey techniques, and observation. It typically involves the construction of questionnaires and scales. Respondents are asked to complete the survey. Marketers use the obtained information to understand the needs of individuals in the marketplace, and to create strategies and marketing plans.

To analyze data and draw conclusions, both descriptive and inferential statistical techniques can be used. It may include hypotheses, or random sampling techniques to enable inference from the sample to the population.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research involves an in-depth understanding of consumer behavior and the reasons that govern that behavior. Qualitative research largely relies on the reasons behind various aspects of behavior.

The methods include techniques such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, metaphor analysis, and projective techniques. In this method, the sample sizes are small, so it can’t be generalized to the larger population. This method investigates the why and how of decision-making, as compared to what, where and when of quantitative research.

As quantitative research depends exclusively on the analysis of numerical or quantifiable data, qualitative research comes in many mediums, including text, sound, still images, and moving images.

In this method, responses are verbal and not in numbers and the respondent is asked to rate the answer in his own words. This approach allows the researcher to discover the consumption motives, attitudes, opinions, perceptions, preferences, experiences, actions, etc. of the consumers.

By combining both the research methodologies, the marketers can design more effective marketing strategies to discover and predict consumer reactions based on historical data of promotional campaigns.

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