It is normally too costly and almost certainly impossible to ask everyone in the target population. So, firms have to sample a proportion of opinions.
A sample is a group that is selected for study which is representative of the total population for a given experiment. The study is normally conducted to understand how the population will react to an item by first testing it on a sample that represents the population that the item will target.
It is important that answers given by the selected sample will reflect the whole populations' opinions as closely as possible. In research, the term 'population' is used to represent all the market, but for a major corporation it may the majority of the population of the country. Obviously, by asking fewer people the firm cut costs, save on time and resources. But the results may not be statistically significant. In other words, the firm cannot rely on the results representing the views of the entire target population. If it does not, any marketing decision based on the results may be flawed. For example, if you ask all your friends what they think about a television programme, their opinions may be similar, but are unlikely to be representative of older age groups.
Advantages of sampling
Sampling has a number of advantages over a full census of a population and these include:
- Saving time - sampling involves a lot less time than a full census and this will enable the firm to produce results faster and therefore react quicker to market trends
- Resources required are fewer - if less time is required then this will reduce the resources required to manage the sampling process
- More cost-effective - costs will be relatively lower when just a sample is taken
- A sample is more reliable as there is a concentration on fewer units