Performing Exploratory Research

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Performing Exploratory Research

  1. 1. © 2013 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved.Performing Exploratory ResearchExecutive SummaryAmong many other reasons, market research problems may arise due to an ongoingproblem in your business or a new development in the market. Exploratory research is theideal way to begin any market research effort by clarifying your market research problemand hypothesizing the potential causes for a marketing problem.This guide is designed to help you understand the purpose of exploratory research, definethe key types of exploratory research methods, and suggest an action plan for a successfulexploratory research study.What is Exploratory Research?Exploratory research is used when a problem has been identified, but the root cause ofthat problem is still unclear. For example, sales on your new product, Software A, dropped50% in the 3rd quarter. In this case, you could use exploratory research to determinepossible causes for the drop in sales.The purpose of exploratory research is to get insights into the problem, not to discover aconclusive solution to it. For this reason, it is done at the beginning of the researchprocess. Exploratory research is small scale and flexible as this portion of the researchprocess is mainly based on discovery, which can lead to a potentially larger scaleinvestigation into the perceived problem.
  2. 2. © 2013 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved.What Does Exploratory Research Attempt To Do? Clarify Research Problem(s) – refine and define the identified research problem inmore detail. Educate Researcher(s) – learn more about the problem and its potential causes. Develop a Research Plan – lead the researcher to research methods that may yielda solution to the problem. Formulate One or More Hypotheses – allow researchers to theorize & predictpossible explanations for the problem.Key Exploratory Research MethodsExploratory research is often done based on the intuition of the researcher(s). Since thepremise of this type of research is to explore possibilities & discover information, theconsensus among researchers is to implement any and all research methods that will leadto a possible explanation of the identified problem.Although creativity is characteristic of this stage of the research process, here are a handfulof research methods that are commonly used for exploratory research: Literature Search – review previous writings related to your problem to discoverearlier data findings and gain further insight into the market research problem.Almost all market research studies begin with this method.Pro: This is the easiest and most cost-effective way to gather information on yourproblem.Con: Delving too deep into previous records could create biases on later research.
  3. 3. © 2013 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved In-depth Interview – conduct one-on-one sessions with individuals close to theproblem at hand to gain detailed, individual opinions on the research problem.Pro: The individual perspectives of these respondents will provide you with primarydata sources to the suggested problem.Con: A series of interviews can become expensive as you calculate preparation,employee time, location space, and interviewer costs. Focus Group – organize a small group discussion with a facilitator (moderator) toobtain perspectives on your problem. This is the most commonly used method inmarket research.Pro: The group discussion allows respondents to bounce ideas off of each other andbuild off of each other’s responses, which can sometimes lead to grander ideas on atopic.Con: The group environment could lead respondents to answer differently than theywould in a one-on-one discussion based on the “peer pressure” nature of thismethod. Case Analysis – study each instance of the problem individually to learn if theproblem is actually recurring or unique. This is the most general and applicablemethod of analytical thinking.Pro: By analyzing each case, you may be able to resolve the problem without anyadditional investigation.Con: This method cannot solve the potential problem. It can simply analyze theinstances of the problem on a case-by-case basis.
  4. 4. © 2013 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved.You can assume your exploratory research efforts are coming to a close when you reachthe point of diminishing returns, which is when multiple research methods start yieldingthe same results. At this point, you may be considering a larger-scale research project orresolving your research problem based on your exploratory research findings.Action Plan1. Identify your research problem.2. Download our Exploratory Research Plan Template – to prepare and manage anexploratory research study.3. Conduct a Literature Review – to learn more about the identified problem that willbe explored.4. Conduct Additional Research – review our Facilitating Insightful Focus GroupsHow-To Guide, conduct in-depth interviews and case analysis to assist you with yourfollow-up research.5. Formulate One or More Hypotheses – utilize the information you gathered fromyour literature review and additional research to develop a hypothesis (orhypotheses) for the causes of your research problem.6. Conclude Your Formal Research Effort.Bottom-Line:If you are planning a market research initiative, begin with an exploratory researchstudy. At a minimum, you will gain insight into your identified problem that will bebeneficial for further research. You may even be able to resolve a market researchproblem without investing too much time or funding into a large-scale research project. Inshort, exploratory research will keep you from chasing and investing in a research problemthat may have a simple answer and/or solution.

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