Kotler defines marketing research as "the systematic design, collection, analysis and reporting of data relevant to a specific marketing situation facing an organization" (Philip Kotler). It has a wide coverage which includes market potential and market share studies, assessments of customers' satisfaction and purchase behavior, studies of pricing, product, distribution and promotional activities (Philip Kotler).
Another book defines marketing research as "a structured approach to getting information about marketing problems and opportunities, for use in making marketing decision" (Frederick Russ). It can be traced to the emergence of the affluent consumers after the World War II wherein marketers sought to convert this new purchasing power into sales therefore the necessity to know what the consumers want and need (Frederick Russ).
"The marketing Research process has four steps: defining the problem and research objectives, developing the research plan, implementing the research plan and interpreting the report findings" (Philip Kotler).
"Various methods of market research are used to find out information about markets, target markets and their needs, competitors, market trends, customer satisfaction with products and services, etc. Businesses can learn a great deal about customers, their needs, how to meet those needs and how the business is doing to meet those needs. Businesses need not to be experts at methods of research either" (Authenticity Consulting, LLC.)
Data Collection can be from primary and from secondary sources. Primary Data Collection includes observation, survey and experiment which can be done personally or impersonally such as through mail or phone (Philip Kotler). Secondary data collection usually includes commercial data sources and online databases and ineternet data sources (Philip Kotler).
Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Market research can be either quantitative or qualitative. While quantitative methods are designed to assess, predict and estimate buyer attitudes and behaviors (Power Decisions Group), qualitative marketing research provides the crucial information for the decision-makers and used in exploring new areas or deepen understanding of some market issues (Suite101.de).
Quantitative market research can be online, phone,in-person, mail and intercept central location testing (CLT). "The online methods provides a fast implementation especially for complex measurement constructions, the phone provides the top-of-mind brand awareness and first reaction attitudes, the in-person has the hybrid quantitative and qualitative and provides depth in probing attitudes and beliefs by skilled interviewer, the mail allows time for respondent to think about complicated issues without pressure or interviewer influence and the CLT is for both the quantitative questions and for choice exercises in mock stores, and for physical product examiniation and concept testing "(Power Decisions Group).
There are at least five considered basic methods of market research. They include surveys, focus groups, personal interview, observation and field trials (AllBusiness.com). Among these, the qualitative ones are focus group an in-depth interviews.