Price, Add-ons and Graphics: In My Opinion the Statistical Program R Kicks SPSS’ SAS

Tired of paying the initial cost, annual licensing fee and for each add-on package for your statistical analysis software? It’s time for you to switch to R, an incredible open-source program for statistical analysis and graphics. R was developed by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman at the University of Aukland, New Zealand in 1993. It has become the statistical analysis software of choice for statisticians, financial analysts and economists. Marketing researchers, and business schools in general, have been slow to adopt R. Thankfully, this is changing.

As an avid user of open source (Linux Mint operating system, OpenOffice, Firefox, etc.), I made the switch to R two years ago when I started teaching marketing research again. Both my undergraduate and graduate marketing research classes utilize the R software package for data analysis. Five reasons for you to make the switch to R are presented below.

Reason 1: Price

R is free. I know that my students will be able to afford to use the software after they graduate. In addition, each add-on module for specialized statistical analysis is free. To date, there are more than 2,437 add-on packages available, including structural equation modelling, model-based cluster analysis and lattice graphics.

Reason 2: Multi-Platform Usability

R works in Windows, Mac and Linux. This removes any excuses that students can offer about software compatibility.

Reason 3: Graphics

R’s capability for generating graphics is unparalleled. The ability to incorporate colors, graph in three dimensions and in some packages, grab and rotate the graphic for different views makes R the king of the statistical analysis software in this category. Two examples are provided: a three dimensional rabbit (in color) with individual data points highlighted and a three-dimensional graph from a model-based cluster analysis.

Reason 4: Ease of Data Import and Export

R makes it simple to import data in multiple formats. My students enter data in Microsoft Excel or in OpenOffice Spreadsheet and import what they need by using the copy and paste functions. My preference is to import data from a spreadsheet as a .csv file. R allows you to import SPSS or SAS datasets and export to these same formats.

Reason 5: As Part of the Open Source Community, R is Continuously Improving and Expanding

Since 1997, updates to R are managed by the R Core Development Team, working collaboratively from all over the globe to contribute code, debug, provide documentation and develop add-ons.

It is this open source approach, managed by some of the top statistical and scientific talent available, that makes R so robust and so appealing.


No mistake about it, R is old-school cool. Users have to learn to utilize command lines in their statistical analysis. Seasoned marketing researchers, like me, were taught how to do this in SAS, BMDP and SPSS before they became menu-driven packages. New users face a steep learning curve, but the effort pays off in the end. For once you understand the commands in R, switching to SPSS or SAS is a walk in the park. And the python extension in SPSS allows users to run the plethora of statistical add-ons available in R.

So how do you get started? Visit the R-Project website and learn as much as you can about the R statistical software. Then go to the Comprehensive R Archive Network to download the latest release (currently R 2.11.1). Install R on your computer and begin the relationship. In my opinion, the best source of information for adapting to R as a former SPSS or SAS user is the Quick-R website by Robert I. Kabakoff.

No excuses remain. Join us in using R as your statistical analysis platform or become obsolete in marketing research. The choice is yours.


2 thoughts on “Price, Add-ons and Graphics: In My Opinion the Statistical Program R Kicks SPSS’ SAS”

  1. I love this post. I’m a Mac user and have to use SPSS because we have a license at Howard, but it doesn’t work well on Apple. This offers a good alternative. Plus, I think the word is going graphics and SPSS doesn’t do these well.

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