The Everyday Researcher – Part 5

10th May, 2011

I blogged before on my quest to purchase an e-reader and likened the processes involved to many of those we use in more formal market research.
After many hours of trawling Internet sites and a few hours of browsing around electrical goods retail outlets I am inundated with all sorts of information linked to e-readers, netbooks and table PCs.

I decided to sort the information I’ve collected in an organised manner so that I can carry out like for like comparisons on the different product characteristics, namely:

1.    Product type, i.e. tablet PC, netbook or e-reader.
2.    Brand
3.    Product specifications i.e. screen size, weight, memory, expandability, etc.
4.    Design, i.e. appearance, colour, ergonomics, etc.
5.    Price

Looking at the above list it should be obvious that numbers, 1, 3 and 5 are what I’d call ‘hard data’ in that they are what they are and have no real ‘qualitative’ aspects to them. Number 4 is what I view as ‘soft data’ in that any judgments made on the relative value linked to the design will be subjective; by which I mean it will be influenced by my personal tastes and my interpretation of how functional the design is.

To some, the ‘Brand’ is also ‘hard data’ and to some extent I’d agree but I’ve confessed to a preference for Sony products and as a consequence I’m prone to giving more ‘weight’ to a Sony than to other makes even if they’re the same in all other aspects. While this isn’t really a big problem to the ‘everyday researcher’ it can be a potentially serious issue for business owners if they let personal preferences over shadow the evidence when making important business decisions.

So the everyday researcher needs to do a bit of ‘data processing’ now – this marks the real beginning of the analysis phase as the different pieces of the information jigsaw are fitted together ready for detailed analysis.

I’ve decided to assign a score for each of the different characteristics then add the scores together to get an overall total score for each product … to guide my decision.  Doing this I’m acutely aware of any particular biases I may have in assigning scores and I’m also aware that even if a product scores highly it may not be the most suitable in overall terms. By this I mean a product may have a high overall score because it scores very highly on a couple of nice to have but not essential features but it may also score poorly on the essentials. So while on the face of it, it may look like the best product in reality it may not be ‘fit for purpose’ and other factors come into play.

Market research can only ever be a management tool.  It is there to inform, guide, educate maybe.  Rarely will it be the definitive answer yet so often it will be used as such!