Qualitative Marketing Research by Dominika Maison

Qualitative Marketing Research by Dominika Maison

Author:Dominika Maison
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Published: 2018-09-11T00:00:00+00:00


Another commonly used qualitative study participant selection criterion is age. Age is an important variable both in terms of the consumer behaviour studied within marketing research and from the point of view of social behaviours and functioning in a group setting. However, its significance in the selection of respondents is often overestimated. Introducing this criterion to research on products directed at a specific age group (e.g., acne treatments or medications for menopause) is relatively obvious. In other cases, however, age is not a critical factor and we should essentially be guided by the principle of homogeneity (uniformity) of the group. An excessively large age gap between focus group participants could give rise to barriers and prevent people at the extreme ends of those age groups from freely sharing their views. The maximum age difference generally considered as acceptable between respondents is 20 years, but this obviously is just convention and depends on the research problem itself. If the participants are clearly linked by a different criterion (e.g., mothers of children less than 24 months of age or classic car enthusiasts), age becomes less important.

It is worth emphasising, however, that even if the users of our product are persons of different ages (e.g., ranging from 20 to 60 years), interviews with the representatives of each age group are often not required (this is not quantitative research!). All we do in such circumstances is limit the age of the study participants in relation to the age of the target group by choosing the most important age range from a marketing perspective (e.g., 25–40 years of age). Another solution would be to conduct separate interviews with two age groups: 20–40-year-olds, and 41–60-year-olds.

Too large an age difference between the respondents could be problematic not just in focus groups but also in individual interviews. True enough, there no longer is the problem of homogeneity in the individual interview (since only one respondent is interviewed) but this could create a serious problem with the interpretation of results. If, for instance, the study objective is understanding the differences in motives or barriers relating to the use of brand A and brand B (essential purposive criteria differentiating the research schemata) and there will be too big a discrepancy in age among group participants of interest to us and, worse still, there will be age differences between the two groups of respondents (e.g., older users of one brand and younger users of the other brand – even if this is also suggested by quantitative usage data), it will be difficult to draw reliable conclusions from such a study since we will not know exactly if the differences observed by us are related to the brand usage or the age of the respondents. Likewise, corresponding to the logic of experimental research, too big an age difference between respondents or a disparity relative to this between the groups may constitute an uncontrolled variable distorting the picture of the results.

Despite age as a selection criterion being traditionally understood as metrical age, it shouldn’t always be treated in this way.


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