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Case Study – Ethics in Marketing Research

Case Study – Ethics in Marketing Research

Case Summary

In this case study, the decision analyst conducted a qualitative research project for a cosmetic manufacturer to better understand consumer behavior and preferences regarding cosmetics, focusing on (Decision Analyst, 2016). The client wanted to comprehend why consumers shop for cosmetics online, particularly on Amazon, instead of in physical stores. They also sought to identify ways to enhance their website’s performance and improve the in-store shopping experience. The cosmetic manufacturer client faced several strategic issues, including understanding the path to purchase, competing with, and enhancing the in-store experience. Thus, the decision analyst established five objectives for the study.

First, the analyst sought to assess consumers’ shopping experiences comprehensively, considering shopper types, values, expectations, buying circumstances, and more across various online retailers and physical stores. Second, the research aimed to identify the connections between shopping experiences, product satisfaction, loyalty to specific retailers, and brand loyalty. Third, the analyst sought to understand what consumers desire regarding online and in-store beauty shopping experiences. Fourth, the study intended to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of and other competitive websites in the cosmetics category, providing insights for the client company to capitalize on opportunities. Lastly, the research delved into how and why shoppers use, focusing on its specific missions in the cosmetics shopping journey.

The decision analyst designed a multi-phase qualitative research approach involving two distinct groups of female consumers aged 25 to 52 who had purchased prestige makeup and facial skincare products in the past three months to address the objectives identified. The first group consisted of consumers who shopped on Amazon and retail partner stores and purchased from high-end physical stores in the past year. These consumers were planning to buy from Amazon in the future. On the other hand, the second group comprised consumers who shopped on Amazon and other cosmetic brand and retailer websites. They were also planning to purchase from Amazon in the future. Regarding the research design, the analyst used in-person focus groups (four groups), two-day time extended online in-depth interviews, and follow-up phone interviews with remote desktop viewing.

The research yielded valuable insights for the client. They gained a clear understanding of what makes Amazon appealing to consumers, including areas where Amazon exceeded expectations and features that built loyalty. Additionally, the study identified Amazon’s shortcomings and areas where consumers felt disappointed. The client used these findings to assist their retail partner in improving in-store processes and displays. Moreover, the research findings informed improvements to the client’s website and other websites under their control, ultimately driving traffic and increasing online sales.

The Role of Ethics in Marketing Research

In the case study, several ethical implications concerning marketing research can be identified. First, researchers must have obtained informed consent from participants, ensuring they understand the nature of the study and how their data will be used. Khan et al. (2021) believe this is critical in maintaining ethical standards. Second, given the sensitive nature of cosmetics purchasing behavior, protecting participants’ privacy and data security is essential. Third, the study should be conducted transparently, with participants aware of the research objectives and methods. Any deception should be minimized, and any deception used should be justified. Fourth, all participants should be treated fairly and respectfully, without discrimination based on age, gender, or other characteristics. Lastly, researchers should aim to maximize benefits while minimizing harm to participants. Notably, this includes safeguarding participants’ emotional well-being during interviews and observations.

Possible Ethical Implications for the Client

The client in this marketing research study faces several potential ethical implications. There is a responsibility to ensure that the research is conducted ethically, abiding by informed consent, privacy, and data security standards. The client must ensure that participants in the study have willingly and knowingly agreed to participate, understanding the study’s objectives and how their data will be used. Moreover, the client must guarantee that the data collected is handled with utmost care, respecting the privacy and confidentiality of the participants. Also, the client should be cautious about utilizing the research findings. Ethical considerations extend to how the information is employed for marketing purposes. The insights gained from the study mustn’t be used to manipulate or deceive consumers but rather to enhance the customer experience and provide value. Furthermore, if the client intends to share or publish the research results, they must do so transparently and accurately, avoiding misrepresentation or selective data reporting that could mislead stakeholders.

Possible Ethical Implications for the Researcher

Researchers in this marketing study have various ethical considerations to consider throughout the research process. They should prioritize informed consent, ensuring that participants willingly and knowingly agree to participate in the study and understand its purpose and the potential use of their data. Researchers also need to be transparent about the methods used, avoiding any form of deception that could undermine the study’s validity. Privacy and data security are paramount ethical concerns. Researchers must safeguard participants’ personal information and ensure it is stored and transmitted securely to prevent unauthorized access or data breaches. Any remote desktop viewing or webcams used in the research must respect participants’ privacy and adhere to ethical guidelines (Vallaster et al., 2019). Maintaining the emotional well-being of participants during interviews and observations is crucial. Researchers should strive to minimize any potential distress or discomfort and be prepared to offer support or referrals if participants exhibit emotional distress. Additionally, researchers must handle the data collected with integrity, accuracy, and impartiality, avoiding any bias or selective reporting that could compromise the study’s validity and objectivity. Finally, when sharing findings, researchers should do so transparently and honestly, providing a complete and accurate representation of the results.

The Client/Contract Agreement

The client/contract agreement in marketing research should encompass various aspects to address and counteract potential ethical issues. It should explicitly state the purpose and objectives of the research, ensuring transparency about the study’s intentions. Informed consent procedures must be outlined, detailing how participants will be informed about the research, their involvement, and how their data will be used and protected. To counteract privacy concerns, the agreement should include a section on data handling and security, specifying measures to protect participant confidentiality and outlining how data will be stored, transmitted, and disposed of securely. Furthermore, the agreement should establish guidelines for reporting and sharing research findings, emphasizing the importance of accurate, unbiased, and transparent results representation. Lastly, if applicable, provisions for participant compensation should be clearly outlined to prevent any undue influence on participants’ involvement. These elements collectively create a framework that safeguards ethical conduct and ensures that the research serves the client’s objectives and the ethical principles governing marketing research.


Decision Analyst. (2016). A qualitative approach to understanding the path-to-purchase.

Khan, M. A., Pattnaik, D., Ashraf, R., Ali, I., Kumar, S., & Donthu, N. (2021). Value of special issues in the journal of business research: A bibliometric analysis. Journal of Business Research125, 295-313.

Vallaster, C., Kraus, S., Lindahl, J. M. M., & Nielsen, A. (2019). Ethics and entrepreneurship: A bibliometric study and literature review. Journal of Business Research99, 226-237.


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Case Study - Ethics in Marketing Research

Case Study – Ethics in Marketing Research

After completing this unit, you should now have a better understanding of the ethical issues that can occur in every step of the research process, from identifying the problem to analyzing the data and presenting the information.

Below are several research case studies, one of which you will choose to review. Analyze the possible ethical implications of your chosen study. Based upon the details of your chosen case study, discuss the possible ethical implications to both the client and the researchers. Follow the instructions listed below.

Choose one of the following case studies:

Decision Analyst. (n.d.). A decision analyst proprietary panel of users.

Decision Analyst. (n.d.). A qualitative approach to understanding the path-to-purchase.

Decision Analyst. (n.d.). A rose of any other color.

Decision Analyst. (n.d.). China: A new world of possibilities.

After reviewing the case study, provide a summary of the case in your own words. Then, the ethical implications of the study will be analyzed. In your analysis, be sure to answer the following questions:

How does ethics play a role in marketing research?
What are possible ethical implications for the client?
What are possible ethical implications for the researcher?
What should be included in the client/contract agreement to counteract ethical issues?

Your case study must be a minimum of two pages, and at least one academic source should be used in addition to the case study itself. Any information from the sources must be cited and referenced in APA format, and your paper should be formatted in APA style.

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