Preliminary or Exploratory Marketing Research – Don’t just launch yourself into Market Research

Exploratory Research is a form of preliminary research conducted to determine the exact nature of problems.  It is not intended to provide conclusive evidence from which a particular course of action can be determined.  Exploratory Research merely crystallises the problem and identifies information needed.  Further, (Conclusive) research is usually required.  Exploratory Research includes:

  • Screening Alternatives
  • Secondary Research (also known as desk research)
  • Experience Surveys – Interviews with key personnel, experts or those with specialist knowledge
  • Pilot Studies
  • Focus Groups

Exploratory Research is typically used to provide structure and insight into the research problem.  This may include, for example, using focus groups to determine key factors related to the use of the product.

The purposes for conducting Exploratory Research are;

A.      Gaining a Better Understanding of the Problem – Diagnosing the situation.

Exploratory Research helps diagnose the dimensions of problems so that the Conclusive Research project will achieve its goals.

B.      Screening alternatives.

When several opportunities arise and budgets restrict the use of all possible options, Exploratory Research may be utilised to determine the best alternatives.  Certain evaluative information can be obtained through exploratory research.

C.      Discovering new ideas.

Exploratory Research is often used to generate new value offering ideas, ideas for advertising copy, and so on.

Types of Exploratory Research

A manager may choose from five general categories of exploratory research:

A.      Experience surveys.

Concepts may be discussed with specialists and executives who have had experience in the field being researched.  This constitutes an experience survey.  The purpose of such a study is to help formulate the problem and clarify concepts, rather than to develop conclusive evidence.

B.      Secondary data analysis.

Background information is information/data available from a variety of sources, including libraries and the internet.

C.      Case studies.

The purpose of a case study is to obtain information from one or more situations that are similar to the researcher’s situation.  As with all exploratory research, the results of a case study should be seen as tentative.

D.      Pilot studies.

The term “pilot studies” is used to group together a number of diverse research techniques all of which are conducted on a small scale.  Thus, a pilot study is a research project that generates primary data from consumers, or other subjects of ultimate concern.

E.       Focus group interviews.

These interviews are free-flowing interviews with a small group of people.  They have a flexible format and can discuss anything from brand to a product itself.  The group typically consists of 6-10 participants and a moderator.  The moderator’s role is to introduce a topic and to encourage the group to discuss it among themselves.

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