Marketing and the Consumer

Marketing and the Consumer

Marketing and the Consumer

To assist classification and to enable comparisons to be made from the answers of various sub-groups of respondents, it is normal for the first set of questions to establish facts about the person being interviewed, such as:


2. Age.

Marital status.


Membership of professional organization/trade union, etc.

The occupation of the head of the household.

Does the family own the house it lives in?

Is it rented?

Is there a telephone?

At what age will the children in the household, if any, leave school?

What is the family income?

It will be seen that some of these questions intrude deeply into the respondent's personal and financial affairs and the problem of truthful or untruthful replies has to be faced. Sometimes researchers put such questions at the end of the questionnaire in the belief that by the time this stage has been reached the interviewer will have succeeded in establishing a friendly relationship with the respondent, thus reducing his or her natural suspicion or feeling of embarrassment.

Researchers are often divided on the controversial question of whether or not the name of the respondent should be recorded. There is a strongly held opinion that a guarantee of anonymity allows the respondent to relax and generally produces more truthful replies.

The researcher's next consideration, before he prepares his questions on the general subject-matter of the survey, is to decide upon the number and nature of the control questions which he will incorporate into his questionnaire. Control questions aim to check the accuracy of the respondent's answers to the standard questions. Where an answer to a control question is at variance with the answer given to a standard question, it is apparent to the researcher that incorrect replies have been recorded. When this occurs the entire questionnaire will be eliminated from the survey.

Care must be taken in the wording of the control question. If it merely repeats the original question it is likely to be answered in the same vein and no control will have been achieved. To be effective it must broach the same subject as the standard question but from a different point of view.

In deciding upon the wording of questions and their sequence in the questionnaire, the researcher must bear in mind the mental attitude of the respondent. He, or she, has been approached by the interviewer, who has explained what the survey is about, that they have been selected by pure chance and are, therefore, representative of public opinion and to invite their co-operation in providing answers to certain questions which will contribute to the success of the project. It is important that the confidence of the respondent should be established as quickly as possible as this will enable him to relax and to co-operate in the interview.

The work of the interviewer in achieving this desirable state of affairs will be assisted by the way in which questions are worded and the sequence in which they appear on the form. As soon as the introductory questions, which establish the respondent's characteristics, have been dealt with, it is important to move on to questions dealing with the substance of the survey and which are likely to engage the respondent's interest. One question should succeed another in a logical sequence because this enables the interest to be maintained and avoids the irritation which can occur when the respondent is asked to switch his mind from one topic to another to answer questions which may appear aimless in their intent.

One of the major problems of consumer surveys which are concerned with people's behaviour rather than their opinions, is their dependence upon the memory of respondents. We have said before that, generally speaking, the public is prepared to co-operate in research of this nature and wrong answers are seldom given intentionally. However, questions which relate to such mundane matters as the last time one purchased a certain brand of washing powder are hardly likely to stimulate the memories of most people, and the housewife must be forgiven if she cannot remember the price she paid for it or the shop where she bought it. Experience has shown that, for the best results, one should seek information about goods bought only the day before. Slightly less reliable results will be achieved from enquiries made into purchases of a week before. If one seeks to take the respondent back over a period of two weeks or more, answers of doubtful accuracy can be expected.

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