Assessment of Consultative Research for Playful Times ToysOverviewThis report is an assessment of the consultative study conducted by Hatfield Market Research Consultants on behalf of Playful Times Toys. There are a number of serious problems with the consultants’ report which are described in detail in the following sections. Secondary data used to establish a background for the primary research seems to be outdated and not entirely clearly relevant to the study. The primary research itself, while extensive, is not supported by evidence of the statistical analysis, and appears to omit several key details.
Finally, the conclusions and recommendations offered by the report are limited and do not suggest alternative courses of action. Some recommendations on how to best compensate for these shortcomings are offered as a conclusion to this assessment. Relevance of the Secondary Data and its AnalysisThe purpose of secondary or desk research is to identify necessary information which has been reliably provided by earlier research, allowing the researcher to focus on more specific questions in new primary research. Secondary research, however, has three main disadvantages: it is often dated, or not as recent as might be needed; the questions answered by the prior research might not be completely relevant to the current market research; and since the researcher has no control over the timing or exact make-up of the study described in secondary data, there is a degree of uncertainty in the accuracy of the information provided.
(Patzer, 1995: 14) The secondary data presented in the report gives a general snapshot of the overall toy market in terms of sales, the changes in personal income which relate to the potential of the market, and the details of toy purchases by age group.
This is all generally relevant information. But since no connection is made between income level and toy purchases, the usefulness of the income data is not clear. As is discussed below, the connection between income and toy purchases was not made in the primary research, either. And there is a question of validity in terms of the age of the information presented, the most recent of which is from 2004. In the years since then, there have been numerous innovations in toys and significant changes in economic conditions, and the data presented may no longer accurately reflect current realities. Assessment of Research SamplingThe sampling used in the larger part of the market research was based on a reasonable assumption about the target population – mothers with children in school – but there are several points which can be questioned as to whether the eventual sample group collected was the most appropriate for developing the information needed by Playful Times.
The quantitative research is described as being a simple random sample, which of course means that a group of subjects is selected at random from a larger population and that any member of the larger population has an equal chance of being selected.
(Easton & McColl, 1997) More details should be given to demonstrate that the sample was indeed sufficiently random to avoid the problems of sampling distribution that arise in quota sampling, which is actually what this survey research sounds like it was. Hatfield Consultants are careful to point out that 1,250 survey responses were gathered and that this sample size conforms to ‘industry norms’.
That is probably a sufficient number in the sample; Punch (2003, p. 93) for example deems a sample size as small as 350 to be sufficient for this kind of relatively small-scale research. But Punch also points out that it is better to have a smaller body of good data than a larger one of poor data. (2003, p. 41) As Brace (2004, p. 36) points out, other information required by a good survey may not be immediately obvious for a particular research question, and implies that the resulting analysis will be wanting if this other information is not covered by the questionnaire.
In Hatfield’s research, several important pieces of information appear to be missing, such as: