Market research analysis is one of the most important — yet misunderstood — pieces of the overall market research project puzzle. Here are the three most common misconceptions:
Market Research Analysis Misconception #1: Making Incorrect Inferences About a Population
Understandably, businesses that invest in a market research project are eager to “get past the data” and start identifying relevant, and ultimately profitable strategic insights. However, one of the greatest risks — and biggest misconceptions — has to do with making incorrect inferences about a population. This is often because the sample size is (incorrectly) assumed to be large enough, and/or the statistical confidence is (again, incorrectly) assumed to be high enough.
Unless these variables are verified, then there is a significant possibility that the results will have a confirmation bias given the natural human tendency to achieve congruence (i.e. to want to align incoming facts with pre-conceived notions and beliefs). When this occurs, any gleaned insights will turn out to be unreliable, and therefore useless or even counter-productive as far as strategic decision-making is concerned.
Market Research Analysis Misconception #2: More Analysis is Better than Less Analysis
On the other end of the spectrum, some businesses — especially if they have in-house personnel with some limited training in market research (e.g. college courses, previous work experience, etc.) — can be excessively reluctant to draw inferences, because they want to ensure they are not jumping to conclusions and “seeing what they want to see.”
While the intention to obtain good, reliable data is admirable, there is a risk of “paralysis by analysis” — i.e. analysis takes on a life of its own, and becomes something of a fixation rather than a process. Not only does this take up excessive time and resources, but this extra rigor does not necessarily lead to more reliable results. On the contrary, it can skew and obfuscate insights and (eventually) lead to flawed insights.
Market Research Analysis Misconception #3: There is Only One Right Way to Display Data
We will not mince words on this: a significant number of people — often employees, but also consultants and even a few agencies — who are providing “market research services” are not qualified to do so. To make matters worse for everyone (themselves and their employer/client), some of them “do not know what they do not know.”
As a result of this limited knowledge and lack of self-awareness, these people typically have one or two preferred ways to display market research data for the purposes of analysis. In truth, this preference is not based on an objective evaluation of what’s best, but simply because they only have one (or maybe two) options. Anything else is beyond their zone of confidence and competence, and so they do not even consider casting data in a different way.
It goes without saying that this is a major problem, because data display-related decisions should not be made by default. They should be made in light of the facts. Otherwise, the best case scenario is that some valuable business intelligence will remain “buried” in the numbers. And the worst case scenario is that some or all of the intelligence will not be intelligent at all, and will steer businesses in the wrong direction.
Unfortunately, if (when) that happens, it is rather easy to blame the very concept of market research and declare that it was a waste of money and time, when in truth the problem was with flawed analysis. In other words: the market research never really stood a chance to succeed and deliver ROI.
At Communications For Research, we ensure that our clients avoid making these costly errors — either by providing them with practical expert consulting, or by taking ownership (and of course, accountability) for their end-to-end market research process that includes rigorous, objective market research analysis.