4 Types of Bias to Avoid in Market Research

Learn how to undergo market research without the bias.

4 Types of Bias to Avoid in Market Research

In spite of the best efforts you may put forth, it will be hard to completely eliminate any internal bias when you conduct market research. You might not even realize your biases, which is even more of a problem if your company consistently takes action according to data results without any knowledge there may be some fault or misleading elements underfoot. The problem lies with trying to correct a problem, or eliminate it completely if you aren’t even aware of its existence. In the case of researcher bias, a proactive way is to understand the types of bias and implement strategies that will eliminate them.

1. Confirmation Bias

This is generally considered the most common type of bias, as it affects almost every area of life, whether work-related or not. An overall understanding of this form can be summed as seeing only what you want from the situation. This is more than just using observation research to inform your judgments, but to rely on things you already assume or know to be true to confirm what you are experiencing through the data.

When conducting market research, there is a tendency to create surveys or focus groups that spend a lot of time on an element or product feature that you already believe customers favor. This gives you more favorable data at the end since there were so many positives that were confirmed. You can work to avoid this by asking yourself, “what do I want to be true about the data” and altering your research to look for another response.

2. Question Order Bias

The way you ask or word a question will influence the individual’s response. As they ponder these ideas, it can influence how they will answer the rest of the questions. This problem is particularly noticeable in surveys designed to rate products. Since the tendency of consumers is rate things relatively, the first product score will significantly impact that of the second. Ask more general questions on your survey to help keep an objective response, rather than a specific product focus for each question.

3. Culture Bias

Given the diversity of the cultural groups that are in the United States, you will undoubtedly be marketing your product to several people groups, and they are all going to have their own perception of the items you sell. When people mistakenly assume that everyone is going to understand the world as they do and will honor their own personal value system, it is called culture bias. As a market researcher, you can never make this assumption. Not everyone will think like you nor hold your same value system. Consider your love of pepperoni pizza. You cannot subtly indicate this favoritism when presenting a survey by attaching a positive value to one item over the other. If you label one item topping as delicious and the other as healthy, it is considered culture bias. Although not everyone sees the term healthy as a negative, it can isolate those who see the world from an organic or more nutritious perspective.

4. Irrational Escalation

Even though this area is not quite as common the other three, it is considered one of the most dangerous forms of bias. If you have already chosen to back a certain product, such as investing financially in production, and the research suddenly shows that customers are not really interested in the item, you have two choices. You can accept that you made a mistake and cut your losses, or you can convince yourself to work harder to sell it, blaming poor research on the problem. This is a form of sunk debt that is best left alone. Accepting what the data reveals is the best way to avoid further loss and jeopardize consumer confidence.

If you are crafting a survey, your own understanding of the topic may influence how you choose to word both the questions and answers. This can ultimately skew the data, and ambush your marketing plans.

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Kevin Gardner
See all posts by Kevin Gardner