Data Collection Methods in marketing research

  1. Primary data-this is the information at hand and collected for the first time.
  2. Secondary data-this is data available or gathered(collected and analyzed by someone else; published materials, reports, journals and books

Methods of Primary Data Collection

1. Observationit is commonly used in behavioral sciences. It is gathering of primary data by investigators own direct observation of relevant people, actions and situations without asking from the respondent. E.g. observing numerous plates containing uneaten proportions of the same menu item indicates that the food is not satisfactory.

Types of observation

  • Structured observation-for descriptive research.
  • Unstructured observation-for exploratory research.
  • Participant observation.
  • Non-participant observation
  • Disguised observation.


  • Feelings, beliefs and attitudes that motivate buying behavior and infrequent behavior can be observed.
  • Expensive method.

2. Survey method this is an approach most suited for gathering descriptive information. The major types are;

  • Structured survey-uses formal lists of questions asked of all respondents in the same way.
  • Unstructured survey-the interviewer probe respondents and guide the interview according to their answers.


  • Can be used to collect many different kinds of information.
  • Quick and low cost as compared to observation and experimentation.


  • Respondent’s reluctance to answer questions asked by unknown interviewers about things they consider private.
  • Busy people may not want to take the time.
  • May try to help by giving pleasant answers.
  • Unable to answer because they can’t remember or never gave a thought to what they do and why.
  • Respondents may answer in order to look smart and well informed.

3. Mailed questionnaires.


  • Can be used to collect large information at a low cost per respondent.
  • Respondents may give more honest answers to personal questions on a mailed questionnaire.
  • No interviewer is involved to bias the respondent answers.
  • Convenient for respondents who can answer when they have time.
  • It’s a good way to reach people who often travel.


  • Not flexible.
  • Takes longer to complete than telephone /personal interview.
  • Response rate is often very low.
  • Researcher has no control over who answers.

4. Telephone


  • It’s a quick method.
  • It’s more flexible as the interviewer can explain questions not understood by respondents.
  • Depending on respondents answer they can skip some questions and probe more on others.
  • Allows greater sample control.
  • Response rate tends to be higher than mail.
  • Cheap as it does not include travelling expenses.


  • Cost per respondent is higher.
  • Some people may not want to discuss personal questions with the interviewer.
  • Interviewer manner of speaking may affect the respondent’s answers.
  • Different interviewers may interpret and record response in a variety of ways.
  • Under time pressure, data may be entered without actually interviewing.

5. Questionnaires

This consists of a set of questions presented to a respondent for answers. The respondents read the questions, interpret what is expected and then write down answers themselves. There are three basic types of questionnaires i.e.

  1. Closed ended – one chooses among a criterion given.
  2. Open ended – one is allowed to answer in own words; no boxes to tick are available.
  3. Combination of both – begins with a series of closed ended questions with boxes to tick and finishes with a section of open ended questions.


  • Can be used to reach many people.
  • Saves time especially where they have been mailed to respondents
  • Cost effective given that be mailed and one can avoid using the interviewer.
  • Questions are standardized and therefore responses are likely to be the same.
  • Interviewer bias can be avoided when questionnaires are mailed.
  • They give a greater feeling of being anonymous and therefore encourage open responses to sensitive questions.
  • Effective in reaching distant locations where it is not practical to go there.


  • Questionnaires mailed to respondents may not be returned.
  • The inability to control the context of questions being answered and specifically the presence of other people who may fill the questionnaire.
  • A certain number of potential respondents particularly the least educated may be unable to respond to written questionnaires because of illiteracy and other difficulties in reading.
  • Written questionnaires do not allow the researchers to correct misunderstanding or answer questions respondents may have.
  • Some questionnaires may be returned half filled or answered.

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