Apart from identifying the consumer to whom we aim to sell our product, the findings of Consumer Research will indicate the kind of product which the consumer is more likely to buy because it will more exactly satisfy his need.

The types of domestic equipment which consumers possess will have an effect upon their use of products in their homes. The optimum size of food storage containers should relate to the size and shape of the storage area of the most popular sizes of domestic refrigerators: the market for humidifiers must relate to the number of homes in which central heating is installed; the market for bathroom fittings is dependent upon the number of dwellings which have bathrooms. Such examples seem sell'-evident. What may be less evident are those factors which determine the extent of a market. Can one assume that the market for tubular garden furniture is limited to the number of homes with gardens? What about the needs of caravan-owners, many of whom doubtless live in apartments without even a window-box! In assessing the optimum size for a motor-car, for example, there are many facts of the consumer's needs which must be studied. A model aimed at the middle-management executive in the �3,00045,000 per annum income bracket must be large enough to provide an adequate status symbol. It must also fit into his garage. He will probably live in a modern house in a modern suburb and have a garage of a standard size. If the car one hopes to sell to him is two inches too long and he cannot close the garage doors he may change his mind and order another make which is just the right size.

Consumer Research can indicate to the ONLINE MARKETING Manager the preference of consumers. Why is one brand of washing-up liquid preferred to another? Is it the quality of the product, its utility, the design of the package or its promotion-its 'brand image'-which evokes a favourable response?

It can also alert the manufacturer to possible changes in the market brought about by changes in consumers' needs. It must be remembered that no market ever remains static. It is constantly undergoing change. A product, popular and in great demand today, may be dead inside two years. Similarly, a market can decline and ultimately disappear as the fickle public whim changes. In today's trading conditions, when society, both at home and abroad, is undergoing major changes in its behaviour, its standards and its ambitions, the ONLINE MARKETING Manager must for ever be on the look-out for the advent of new consumer needs which conflict with the current demand for his particular product or service. Thus the popularity and comparative cheapness of foreign travel creates and satisfies a demand and in so doing tends to absorb some of the surplus purchasing power which might otherwise have been spent, for example, on new house furnishings.

Sometimes, Consumer Research can come up with surprises for the ONLINE MARKETING Manager. He may discover that his product is being used, by some consumers, for purposes for which it was not originally intended. Such knowledge may enable him to promote this new need and thus expand the size of his market.

Consumer Research will also provide evidence of the consumer's views on competitive products and their performance. What is it about a particular competitive product that the housewife prefers?

The ONLINE MARKETING Manager must be careful in the inferences which he makes from Consumer Research. The wrong inferences will lead to the making of wrong decisions. The value of statistics prepared as the result of research surveys depends entirely on the interpretation put upon them and the use made of this additional knowledge. It is easy to misread a set of statistics. The researcher should ensure that the figures he produces are correctly defined; but the ONLINE MARKETING Manager would be well advised to take nothing at its face value. He should check the sources from which the figures have been obtained to make sure that the definitions used are correct.

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Please Note

The Trade is, of course, a major source of product ideas. All manufacturers examine, with avid interest, the new products of their competitors.