Merits and Demerits of Observation in Marketing research

Merits or advantages of observation in marketing research

Observation is employed as a data-gathering technique in overseas market research. It has become the most refined modern research technique. The following are the merits of observation method:

Observation - merits and demerits

Image: Observation – merits and demerits

1. Real and true

All data must originate in some experience or perception. As a scientific tool, it may range from the most casual to the most scientific, involving modern mechanical and electronic means. It meets the needs of a particular situation. Data collected through observation will be more reliable than data collected by any other method. Whenever direct observation is possible it must be pursued, as it is most reliable.

2. Chances of bias are limited

Observation underlies all research. It plays a prominent part in survey procedure. The general conditions of observation may be controlled by selecting the group, special form of stimuli and the observers. Moreover, data gathered through observation are immediately recorded. All these lead to less bias on the part of observer while conducting the marketing research.

3. Better insight into consumer behavior

Observation helps to obtain information which consumers are unwilling or unable to provide. Observation is indispensable for studies on infants who can neither understand our queries nor express themselves clearly. Observation is the only appropriate tool for non-cooperative persons who are unwilling to provide data on their behavior.

Demerits, disadvantages or limitations of observation in marketing research

Observation is subject to certain limitations. It can be carried out very easily in carefully controlled laboratory experiments. The money and time required to conduct an observation are often prohibitive.

1. Lack of competence of the observer

The lack of competence of the observer may hamper the validity and reliability of observation. The observer must have a clear perspective of the nature of the consumer behavior. He/she should also have a valid frame of reference and a freedom from personal bias.

2. Lack of clarity

The observer tends to see only the things which he wants to see. All human beings who are exposed to the same situations do not necessarily perceive the same thing. Various observers observing the same event report details which are influenced by observer’s strong personal interest, emotion, motivation, etc.

An observer must rely on his memory for construction of his observation. In such cases, he should record his observation immediately after an observation. Thus, the recording, if not proper, defeats the very purpose of observation.

3. Little control over physical situation

The subject matter of observation may be samples of rarely occurring behavior. The observer may fail to obtain an adequate sample of data on which he has to base his conclusions. He has little control over the physical situation. This is particularly true in an unstructured situation where so many things occur simultaneously and it becomes difficult to attend to them all.

4. Unmanageable data

The data may be unmanageable. There may be lack of agreement among the observers. So, huge but not a reliable data may get piled up.

5. Possibility of distortion

There is the possibility of distortion of the phenomena through the very act of observing. Observation is self interfering. It introduces in itself a bias, the direction and extent of which is relatively unknown. Such distortion is difficult to eliminate.

But it can be minimized through

  1. a proper choice and location of observers,
  2. inconspicuous recording; and
  3. other attempts at establishing observer neutrality.
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