The business research process is a series of steps that are completed in an order that has been determined as the most highly effective. Although these steps can vary slightly based on the industry and the objective, the overall order typically remains the same. The initial step is determining the issue or opportunity, and establishing the purpose behind the research so that all parties involved are aligned. In the situation chosen for this particular purpose, Starbucks Corporation is presented with the opportunity for capitalization on the single-cup home brewer phenomenon, if only they could figure out how.
In defining the research question necessary for Starbucks' situation, the primary step is to determine the dilemma. "During its 2010 fiscal year, Keurig sold more than $330 million worth of brewers, which go for anywhere from $79.95 to $249.95 each. The company's real money, though, comes from its 'K-Cup' coffee capsules - it sold well over $800 million worth of that last year" (McGinn, 2011). As the patent for K-Cup technology prevented Starbucks from creating and releasing a similar at-home brewer, the research questions are:
1. When does the patent expire?
2. How can Starbucks insert themselves and reap the benefits of this K-Cup craze until then?
3. Once the patent does expire, what is Starbucks' next step in benefiting from the K-Cup technology?
A hypothesis is a theory of how the next step is achieved. To answer the research questions, the company must utilize previous information and data to determine whether products are ready for release. Companies conduct business research to learn about the wants and needs of the target audience in an attempt to build a product that meets those needs. In this particular case, Starbucks believed that releasing an at-home single-cup coffee machine called the Verisimo would help them keep some of their customers. One of the main problems with this was waiting until the K-cup patent expired. Until then, Starbucks still managed to benefit by releasing their own brand of K-cup coffees for the Keurig. Starbucks has since released their version of the at-home single-cup brewer, as the K-cup patent has expired, and they will need to continue to monitor the impact of the Verisimo to determine its effectiveness on the market. The company expects the Verisimo to have better sales because it offers a single-cup of brewed coffee in addition to an espresso maker and notifies the customer to know when cleaning is required.
Variables are described as an event, act, characteristic, trait, or attribute that are measured and to which we assign numerals or values; a synonym for the construct or the property that is studied (Cooper & Schindler, 2011). In the case of Starbucks releasing the Verisimo, quite a few variables were considered. For example, determining an acceptable sale price that appeals to the target audience, but still competitive. Another important variable is the technology used in creating the Verisimo. Although the patent for Keurig has expired, Starbucks wants a unique single-cup brewer. With that in mind, another important variable to consider is the target customer and marketing. Because the Verisimo can brew coffee in addition to making lattes and espresso, these specific features add to the marketing campaign.