By Allison Wakefield, agricultural communications and journalism junior
“Research isn’t just lab coats and chemicals,” said Lauri Baker, as she spoke at the annual Kansas Scholastic Press Association (KSPA) fall conference in the Kansas State University Student Union.
Baker, associate professor of agricultural communications and journalism, explained to high school students the needs and benefits of conducting and distributing research. She introduced the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement (CREE) and its research mission to help people conduct their businesses, especially in rural areas. Baker is a co-founder of the center.
Students received data from two research projects CREE conducted with K-State undergraduate students. Baker detailed the step-by-step process to conduct a quantitative content analysis looking at e-commerce sales in the horticulture industry, which included reading literature about online sales in advertising and related to e-commerce and developing a codebook that was reliable to gather data.
Baker presented the research gathered from the quantitative analysis. The students were amazed at the horticulture websites’ lack of accessibility. Of 498 horticulture businesses, only 19.2 percent were selling online and half of those companies did not have fully functional shopping cart systems for customer purchases.
During her presentation, Baker asked the students what they would want from an online plant-buying experience and compared it to the data collected from the focus groups, known as qualitative research. The groups ask potential consumers what they want from an online plant-buying experience, such as 360-degree video imaging and the use of more pictures.
The students listened to the challenges these businesses were facing and the improvements they could make from the research conducted.
Baker discussed how the millennial generation – those born between 1981 and 1997 – did not love the ideas that were created. She described how their findings helped business owners understand that potential customers wanted many resources when looking to purchase and care for a plant. She also mentioned the pitfalls of not having an engaging, high-quality 360-degree video for the focus groups to view the plants.
Focus group research confirmed that millennials prefer going into a business to purchase plants instead of buying online. It helped researchers understand and communicate to the businesses that they needed more deal pricing to get customers in the door.
The presentation concluded with Baker reiterating the importance of research and how it can help companies boost revenue. Several students said they were inspired by her presentation and asked Baker how to conduct their own research.