Marketing relies on good customer information. Customer insights are fresh understanding of customers and the marketplace derived from marketing information that become the basis for creating customer value and relationships. To gain this information, companies must design marketing information systems (MIS), which are people and procedures for assessing information needs, developing the needed information and helping decision makers to use the information to generate and validate actionable customer and market insights. A MIS helps to assess information needs, develop needed information and analyse the right information to form customer insights.
Internal databases are electronic collections of consumer and market information obtained from data sources within the company network. Internal data can be a strong base for a competitive advantage, because of the potential of this information. Competitive marketing intelligence is the systematic collection and analysis of publicly available information about consumers, competitors and developments in the marketing environment. Good marketing intelligence helps gain insights in how consumers think of and connect with the brand.
Marketing research is the systematic design, collection, analysis and reporting of data relevant to a specific marketing situation facing an organisation. The process of marketing research has four steps:
- Defining the problem and research objectives. The objective of exploratory research is to gather preliminary information that will help define problems and suggest hypotheses. The objective of descriptive research is to better describe marketing problems, situations or markets. Causal research aims to test hypotheses about cause-and-effect relationships.
- Developing the research plan on how the information will be gathered.
Secondary data is information that already exists somewhere, having been collected for another purpose. Secondary data can be accessed by using commercial online databases, which are collections of information available from online commercial sources or accessible via the Internet. Internet search engines can be used to locate secondary data, but the research must verify that the found information is relevant, accurate, current and impartial.
Primary data is information collected for the specific purpose at hand. It can be collected via observational research, which gathers primary data by observing relevant people, actions and situations. Ethnographic research is a form of observational research that involves sending trained observers to watch and interact with consumers in their “natural environments”.
Primary data can also be collected via survey research, which gathers information by asking people questions about their knowledge, attitudes, preferences and buying behaviour. Experimental research gathers primary data by selecting matched groups of subjects, giving them different treatments, controlling related factors and checking for differences in group responses.
Information can be collected via mail, telephone, personal interviews or online. Mail questionnaires can be quite massive, while telephone information is also quickly gathered. Personal interviewing can be individual or group interviews. Online marketing research collects primary data online through Internet surveys, online focus groups, web-based experiments or tracking consumer’s behaviour online. Online focus groups gather a small group of people online with a trained moderator to chat about a product, service or organisation and gain qualitative insights about consumer attitudes and behaviour.
It is often impossible to collect information from the entire population, so marketers often base conclusions on samples. A sample is a segment of the population selected for marketing research to represent the population as a whole. Three decisions regarding the sample need to be made: the sampling unit (who), sampling size (how many) and sampling procedure (how should they be chosen). There are probability samples, in which each member of the population has an equal chance of being included, such as simple random samples, stratified random samples and cluster samples. But there are also non-probability samples, such as convenience samples, judgment samples and quota sample categories.
When collecting primary data, there are two research instruments: the questionnaire and mechanical devices. The questionnaire can be via email, phone or online and are flexible. Mechanical instruments can help monitor consumer behaviour.
- Implementing the research plan means putting it into action. This means collecting, processing and analysing the information.
- Interpreting and reporting the findings. The interpretation should not only be done by the researchers, but also by the marketing managers who know about the problem and the decisions that need to be made.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is managing detailed information about individual customers and carefully managing customer touch points to maximise loyalty. It means capturing and using consumer data to manage customer interactions and build customer relationships. Data mining techniques can be used to access customer data. By using CRM to understand customers, relationships with them can be deeper.
When collecting marketing information, some things must be kept in mind. When executing international marketing research, cultural differences and struggles in accessibility must be kept in mind. There are also concerns regarding public policy and ethics in marketing research, such as intrusions on privacy and the misuse of the findings of the research.