Chapter 9. Approaches to market research

Market research tends to be an important part in a company's armoury to develop and verify new products, services and business ideas. Not least because best practice literature has shouted for years about how important it is to meet consumer needs in order to be successful. In the past most companies have translated this into the need to conduct market research; the more inspired organisations have sought to involve consumers throughout the development process. However, what managers need to be careful about is what kind of approach to market research they take, and how much they let results influence their decisions. In the case of Black & Decker, should the market research data dictate which design to take forward? Rather the devil you know?

Particularly in the context of innovation there is a considerable problem with market research: if you ask people what they want, they will refer to something they are familiar with. Kaplan (1999) comments, ''Customers seldom articulate needs they don't know they have. Ten years ago, how many people would have asked for a subscription to anything like America Online? Thirty years ago, how many people would have asked for a calculator that fits into a shirt pocket, or a microwave, or a VCR, or a Walkman?'' So it is important to understand the limitations of more traditional forms of market research and focus. As Henry Ford used to say, "Had I asked people what they wanted they would have told me: faster ...

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