You can find many opportunities in high school to learn more about the necessary skills for the field of marketing research. For example, you could conduct market research in preparation for a school dance. You could ask fellow students for their opinions on what type of music and refreshments they would like at the dance, or what time the dance should start and end. You can also conduct research as a member of student government, in school fund-raising activities, and in any other activity where you need to gather information to come to a decision.
Another way to explore the market research field is through part-time employment as a survey interviewer at a local marketing research firm. Gathering field data for consumer surveys offers valuable experience through actual contact with both the public and marketing research supervisors. In addition, many companies seek a variety of other employees to code, tabulate, and edit surveys; monitor telephone interviews; and validate the information entered on written questionnaires. Search for job listings on the Web or apply directly to research organizations.
Marketing researchers collect and analyze all kinds of information in order to help companies improve their products, establish or modify sales and distribution policies, and make decisions regarding future plans and directions. In addition, research analysts monitor both in-house studies and off-site research, interpret results, provide explanations of compiled data, and develop research tools.
One area of marketing research focuses on company products and services. To determine consumer likes and dislikes, research analysts collect data on brand names, trademarks, product design, and packaging for existing products, items being test-marketed, and those in experimental stages. Analysts also study competing products and services that are already on the market to help managers and strategic planners develop new products and create appropriate advertising campaigns.
In the sales methods and policy area of marketing research, analysts examine firms' sales records and conduct a variety of sales-related studies. For example, information on sales in various geographical areas is analyzed and compared to previous sales figures, changes in population, and total and seasonal sales volume. By analyzing this data, marketing researchers can identify peak sales periods and recommend ways to target new customers. Such information helps marketers plan future sales campaigns and establish sales quotas and commissions.
Advertising research is closely related to sales research. Studies on the effectiveness of advertising in different parts of the country are conducted and compared to sales records. This research is helpful in planning future advertising campaigns and in selecting the appropriate media to use.
Marketing research that focuses on consumer demand and preferences solicits opinions of the people who use the products or services being considered. In addition to actually conducting opinion studies, marketing researchers often design the ways to obtain the information. They write scripts for telephone interviews, develop direct-mail questionnaires and field surveys, and design focus group programs.
Through one or a combination of these studies, market researchers are able to gather information on consumer reaction to the need for and style, design, price, and use of a product. The studies attempt to reveal who uses various products or services, identify potential customers, or get suggestions for product or service improvement. This information is helpful for forecasting sales, planning design modifications, and determining changes in features.
Once information has been gathered, marketing researchers analyze the findings. They then detail their findings and recommendations in a written report and often orally present them to management as well.
A number of professionals compose the marketing research team. The project supervisor is responsible for overseeing a study from beginning to end. The statistician determines the sample size—or the number of people to be surveyed—and compares the number of responses. The project supervisor or statistician, in conjunction with other specialists (such as demographers and psychologists), often determines the number of interviews to be conducted as well as their locations. Field interviewers survey people in various public places, such as shopping malls, office complexes, and popular attractions. Telemarketers gather information by placing calls to current or potential customers, to people listed in telephone books, or to those who appear on specialized lists obtained from list houses. Once questionnaires come in from the field, tabulators and coders examine the data, count the answers, code noncategorical answers, and tally the primary counts. The marketing research analyst then analyzes the returns, writes up the final report, and makes recommendations to the client or to management.
Marketing research analysts must be thoroughly familiar with research techniques and procedures. Sometimes the research problem is clearly defined, and information can be gathered readily. Other times, company executives may know only that a problem exists as evidenced by a decline in sales. In these cases, the marketing research analyst is expected to collect the facts that will aid in revealing and resolving the problem. In addition to statistical techniques, market research analysts use a variety of computer software programs to analyze data and create charts, graphs, infographics, and other visual documentation to present their research findings to their clients.