Experimental research

Experimental research is best suited for gathering causal information. Experiments involve selecting matched groups of subjects, giving them different treatments, controlling unrelated factors, and checking for differences in group responses. Thus, experimental research tries to explain cause-and-effect relationships. Observation and surveys may be used to collect information in experimental research.

Before adding a new sandwich to the menu, researchers at McDonald’s might use experiments to answer questions such as the following:

  • How much will the new sandwich increase McDonald’s sales?

  • How will the new sandwich affect the sales of other menu items?

  • Which advertising approach would have the greatest effect on sales of the sandwich?

  • How would different prices affect the sales of the product?

  • Should the new item be targeted toward adults, children, or both?

To test the effects of two different prices, McDonald’s could set up a simple experiment: It could introduce the new sandwich at one price in its restaurants in one city and at another price in restaurants in another city. If the cities are similar, and if all other marketing efforts for the sandwich are the same, then differences in sales in the two cities could be related to the price charged. More complex experiments could be designed to include other variables and other locations.