Selecting the right research tools

Albert Hamilton




Using the wrong research tools can damage a shopping centre’s value

Is there any other profession where we would tolerate someone deciding which tool to use before they knew what the job was? What would you say to someone trying to use a saw to hang a picture on a wall? Would you be confident in a doctor who brought only a stethoscope to diagnose an unknown illness?

Surprisingly this back-to-front process happens in consumer research, and despite its prevalence, it is equally wrong. It is not uncommon to hear that a quantitative study is required, prices are agreed and following that questionnaires are to be developed to find the missing information.

What is wrong with this?

Let’s look at the issue another way. Research is just like every other profession in that there is always a range of possible tools to achieve a defined objective. While several research tools may work, some will be more efficient and effective, and others will make the job more difficult.

To ensure that we are using the right research tool at the right time, it is crucial to fully define the objective first. This step can seem so obvious that it is often skipped but in consumer research, a clear objective maximises the usefulness of the project and the efficiency of the budget.

Some research objectives we have achieved for clients have included:

  • Which postcode sectors in my secondary catchment are secure and which are vulnerable to competitor activity on a month by month basis?
  • How much does this vulnerable group spend each month in my centre and how much with competitors?
  • What are their main reasons for spending elsewhere?
  • Which consumer types are under-represented in my centre currently and offer the greatest opportunity for increased footfall and sales?
  • Which consumer types represent our greatest spend, and where should we market to encourage more of them to visit the centre?

Only when we have a clear set of research objectives, is it appropriate to determine the best course of action to achieve those objectives. It should always be objective, then strategy.

What’s the alternative? If using the wrong research tool can lead to misdiagnosis and damaging consequences – there is no alternative. For help with clarifying research objectives and reaching the right research strategy, talk to CARD Group.