In keeping with these findings, Starbucks decided to help the environment by providing a new “ceo-friendly” coffee cup, composting coffee grounds, and recycling burlap bags. The company also has initiatives to help small coffee bean farmers local community programs, and charitable giving. There are even employee incentives and awards for volunteering for these causes.
One of the newest social programs is to match employee volunteer hours with dollars to the same organization. Starbucks, in conjunction with international specialty coffee organizations such as the Colombian Coffee Federation and the Specialty Coffee Association of America, advised many environmental organizations about growing earth-friendly coffee. An extensive set of guidelines was established, called the “Conservation Principles for Coffee Production.” Thus, Starbucks has differentiated its brand and enhanced its image in a way that checkbook philanthropy never could
As this example indicates, at a broad level, two main types of research designs ..re employed in marketing research: exploratory and conclusive. An understanding of the fundamentals of research design and its components enables the researcher to formulate a design that is appropriate for the problem at hand
Research Design Definition
A research design is a framework or blueprint for conducting the marketing research project. It details the procedures necessary for obtaining the information needed to structure or solve marketing research problems. Although a broad approach to the problem has already been developed, the research design specifies the details-the nuts and bolts-of implementing that approach. A research design lays the foundation for conducting the project. A good research design will ensure that the marketing research project is conducted effectively and efficiently. Typically, a research design involves the following components, or tasks
1. Define the information needed
2. Design the exploratory, descriptive, and or causal phases of the research
3. Specify the measurement and scaling procedures .
4. Construct and pretest a questionnaire (interviewing form) or an appropriate form for data collection
5. Specify the sampling process and sample size
6. Develop a plan of data analysis
Each of these components will be discussed in great detail in the subsequent chapters. First, we must further our understanding of research design with a classification of the different types.
Research Design Classification
Research designs may be broadly classified as exploratory or conclusive (see Figure 3.1) The differences between exploratory and conclusive research are summarized in Table 3.1. The primary objective of exploratory research is to provide insights into, and an understanding of, the problem confronting the researcher.I Exploratory research is used in cases when you must define the problem more precisely, identify relevant courses of action, or gain additional insights before an approach can be developed. The information needed is only loosely defined at this stage, and the research process that is adopted is flexible and unstructured. For example, it may consist of personal interviews with industry experts. The sample, selected to generate maximum insights, is small. and non representative. The primary data are qualitative in nature and are analyzed accordingly. Given these characteristics of the research process, the findings of exploratory research should be regarded as tentative or as input to further research. Typically, such research is followed by further exploratory or conclusive research. Sometimes, exploratory research, particularly qualitative research, is all the research that is conducted. In these cases, caution should be exercised in utilizing the findings obtained. Exploratory research will be discussed in more detail in the next section.
The insights gained from exploratory research might be verified or quantified by conclusive research, as in the open in; example. The importance of salient social-causes that businesses should address, identified through exploratory research, was determined through a survey (conclusive research) that showed that public education was the most important
cause of concern to 33 percent of the respondents. The objective of conclusive research is to test specific hypotheses and examine specific relationships. This requires that the researcher clearly specify the information needed.’ Conclusive research is typically more formal and structured than exploratory research. It is based on large, representative samples, and the data obtained are subjected to quantitative analysis. The findings from this research are considered to be conclusive in nature in that they are used as input into managerial decision making.
(However, it should be noted that from the perspective of the philosophy of science, nothing can be proven and nothing is conclusive.) As shown in Figure 3.1, conclusive research designs may be either descriptive or causal, and descriptive research designs may be either cross-sectional or longitudinal. Each of these classifications is discussed further, beginning with exploratory research.
As its name implies. the objective of exploratory research is to explore or search through a problem or situation to provide insights and understanding (table 3.2). Exploratory research could be used
for any of the following purposes:
• Formulate a problem or define a problem more precisely.
• Identify alternative courses of action.
• Develop hypotheses.
• Isolate key variables and relationships for further examination.”
• Gain insights for developing an approach to the problem.
• Establish priorities for further research
The opening example in the overview section illustrated the use of exploratory research to identify the social causes that American businesses should be concerned about. This research identified the following causes as client: child care, drug abuse. public education. hunger. crime. the environment, medical research. and poverty. In general. exploratory research is meaningful in any situation where the researcher does not have enough understanding to proceed with the research project. Exploratory research is characterized by flexibility and versatility with respect to the methods because formal research protocols arid procedures are not employed It rarely involves structured questionnaires, large samples, and probability sampling plans. Rather, researchers are alert to new ideas and insights as they proceed. Once a new idea or insight is discovered, they may redirect their exploration in that direction. That new direction is pursued until its possibilities arc exhausted or another direction is found. For this reason, the focus of the investigation may shift constantly as new insights are discovered. Thus, the creativity and ingenuity of the researcher plays major role in exploratory research. Yet the abilities of the researcher are not the sole determinants of good exploratory research. Exploratory research can greatly benefit from use of the following methods (see Table 3.2
The use of exploratory research in defining the problem and developing an approach was discussed in . The advantages and disadvantages of exploratory research are further discussed in (“Secondary Data”) and (“Qualitative Research”). To aid the reader in visualizing the applications of exploratory research, we now consider the department store project, which employed the following types of exploratory studies:
• A review of academic and trade literature to identify the relevant store characteristics (choice criteria), demographic and psycho& graphic factors that influence consumer patronage of department stores. Interviews with retailing experts to determine trends. such as emergence of new types of outlets and shifts in consumer patronage patterns (e.g .. shopping on the Internet)
• A comparative analysis of the five best and five worst stores of the same chain to gain some idea of the factors that influence store performance .
• Focus groups to determine the factors that consumers consider important in selecting department stores
The following example further illustrates exploratory research