Understanding Types of Research Design
A look at different types of research design, and how selecting one will depend on your insight goals
In early 2018, the American beauty empire Tarte released its new line of makeup foundations. With 15 brand-new cosmetic products on offer, the company should have had ample reason to celebrate. After all, the hype around the launch in question had been defined by jubilant excitement the brand’s clientele had raved about for weeks.
However, it took no time for dark skies to rain on Tarte’s parade as massive backlash followed the products’ initial sales. With dismay, the company recognized that customers were not pleased with the items they bought.
Why? Because the foundation shades released did not cater to darker skin. With a limited range that extensively featured paler tones, the products had severely alienated people of color who were quick to drive attention to this mishap.
When confronted with this setback, Tarte curtailed the launch, revisited its manufacturing process, and re-released the foundations. This time, they offered 50 shades that accommodated all kinds of skin tones.
One could say that the beauty brand could have avoided all the hassle if they had done thorough research before the first launch. Studying gaps in the market and what customers’ demand could have allowed the company to make its product inclusive from the get-go.
This is why research matters – it allows businesses to make informed decisions that elevate the former’s portfolio, helping it succeed in competitive markets.
However, you can’t just jump into research headfirst. Without a strategy, you wouldn’t know where to start or what factors to look for. Gaining useful insights requires extensive market research that is based on the right type of research design.
What Is Research Design?
In a nutshell, the research design is the strategy used while studying the market. It is the blueprint of your investigation and highlights the approach you will take to gain customer insights.
There are different types of research design, and selecting one for your study will depend on your insight goals.
Perhaps you want to discover why your sales are plummeting after an initial rise. You’ll be able to accomplish this goal if you choose the design most appropriate for your analysis.
For instance, using a descriptive design that simply explains that sales are dropping won’t help. Of course, it will help you see by what margin profits are falling, but it won’t tell you why. Ultimately, not understanding the reasons behind your company’s poor performance will prevent you from making changes and fixing the problem.
The right type of research design allows you to systematically collect and analyze data, thus equipping your study with logical and coherent answers.
In research, two main frameworks exist, quantitative and qualitative data analysis.
Quantitative studies gather statistical information, while qualitative investigations collect non-numerical, subjective data. Most research combines inferences made through both approaches to ensure that the research aim is fulfilled effectively.
Once you determine which research approach they are going with, they can select the type of research design that best fits their study.
Types of Research Design
There are 3 main types of research design, including:
Descriptive Research Design
Studies limiting themselves to explaining a scenario without analyzing the reasons behind observations benefit from this type of research design.
Descriptive research is usually statistical, as businesses employ it to study supply and demand trends associated with them. Descriptive research is conducted through surveys and questionnaires to help a company interpret how it is performing.
This type of research design can give you demographics-level awareness of your venture’s performance.
Suppose your brand sells hair accessories. A survey of your consumer base can describe which groups of people buy your products the most. To be sure of your findings, commit to conducting a longitudinal study, which focuses on surveying a population for lengthy periods. Note which trends have remained consistent over the months.
For instance, your survey’s findings reveal that middle-aged women between 40 and 55 are your most frequent customers. Now, you can use this knowledge to your advantage by creating more items tailored for this age group.
Rest assured, when your committed clientele sees that you are customizing products to prioritize their needs, they will return to your brand time and again.
Exploratory Research Design
Descriptive research gives you the facts, and that may be enough if you want to track your performance. If you want to analyze the facts, you should conduct an exploratory study.
The exploratory research design helps you don your detective’s hat and figure out the ‘why’ to the ‘what.’
As discussed previously, you recognize that your sales are dropping in a scenario. Just acknowledging this observation won’t be sufficient. Naturally, you will want to know where you went wrong or what decision you made that drove your customers away.
Your course of action in this situation, therefore, should be turning to explorative data collection methods such as in-depth qualitative interviews where you have detailed conversations with focus groups in an attempt to ask your clients why they are no longer supporting your products.
Perhaps, in the course of this discussion, you will learn that your customer service representatives are rude and dismissive towards customers. Knowing this will lead you to perform a case analysis where you can observe said representatives’ behavior. You will identify areas in which service personnel can improve customer retention and get back into your customers’ good book.
Causal Research Design
As a business owner, you want to make sure that you’re making innovative decisions.
Remember, regardless of what you’re offering; the market is extremely competitive. It’s easy for customers to get bored of your services and pledge their allegiance to another brand that seems more creative and convenient to work with.
The causal research design operates through experimentation, which is a good technique to integrate into your market research to elevate your portfolio and beat the competition. You can conduct experiments by manipulating variables and analyzing the impact of different customer experience elements.
Suppose you run a fast-food franchise that wants to win over customers with its signature cheeseburger.
With hundreds of other restaurants offering this delicious delicacy, it can be hard to stand out and bag all the customers who are big on burgers. However, you can succeed in reaching this milestone with a little experimentation.
To study causation here, leveraging conjoint analysis can help you can change up the packaging of your products. Address all relevant factors, including color schemes and the material used for wrapping the burgers.
Additionally, you can also modify your promotional approach. Come up with witty one-liners to print on billboards and start a social media challenge where you give acknowledgments to locations where your franchise makes the most sales.
Once you have administered these changes, see if they affect your cheeseburger sales. If the latter skyrocket, your experiment has succeeded and proved that marketing your product was the ingredient needed to improve your franchise’s performance.
If you want your business to do well, research is crucial.
Whether you are setting your company up for the first time, monitoring its progress periodically, or making an effort to help it climb to new heights, you need to study the market in which your organization operates. This way, you’ll know what your customers want and be able to live up to their expectations.
However, research is not effective if it isn’t based on a suitable design. A research design is defined as a strategy undertaken while conducting a study. It’s the blueprint that helps you identify the questions you need to ask when conducting your market investigation. There are different types of research designs. Choose one that will give you the best insights into specific situations affecting your company’s performance.
Jim Whaley is a business leader, market research expert, and writer. He posts frequently on The Standard Ovation and other industry blogs.
OvationMR is a global provider of first-party data for those seeking solutions that require information for informed business decisions.
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