The Main Types of Market Research

Market research is a broad catch-all term for trying to find insights that can help drive a business, organisation or project forward.

The aim in all instances is to bring insight and with this the certainty and the confidence to act.

Market research enables hypotheses to be tested and knowledge to be gained. It turns decision making from guesswork into something altogether more scientific.

However, the overall term covers a wider range of smaller subdivisions.

In this post, we cover some of the main forms of market research.

However, please be aware that this is not meant to be definitive, nor is it an in-depth guide.

Instead, it is a starting point to the areas of market research that are likely to be of benefit to you.

If you require further information, or the services of one of the UK’s leading experts in all forms of market research, please do contact us for an obligation-free conversation.

Primary Research

Primary research is data captured directly from users, customers and similar.

Primary research has the advantage of being straight from the horse’s mouth (if you will excuse the expression). It will tell you what people think and then use this to help shape decisions.

This data can also be relatively easy to acquire – often you will already have the customer details and so can survey them or ask for feedback.

Nothing need be off limits, you can seek out both positive and negative opinions.

As an example, a car manufacturer might survey buyers to find out which features they most enjoy in their new car, and which perhaps fall below expectations.

However, skill is still needed to acquire honest feedback, rather than settling simply for quick, overly positive responses with little thought.

We are all familiar with the many forms of primary research – common options are surveys, polls, interviews, questionnaires and focus groups.

These can be done in person but, increasingly, digital methods are used – this allows for large levels of data collection at minimal expense.

Secondary Research

Secondary research is carried out on a level that is more industry-based.

To use the car manufacturer example, it might look at trends of drivers choosing automatic over manual transmission on a global level of car sales, and then also dig into the trends underlying these changes.

Secondary research can have more of an academic leaning, drawing from multiple smaller studies and pieces of information and drawing these together to combine data, but also do so in a way that makes valid conclusions.

Secondary research can also eradicate the need to reinvent the wheel – it may be that huge swathes of useful data exist within your industry, so there is no need to run your own survey. Instead, you simply need to have sight of the larger industry-wide trends.

As an example, if TV sales are declining with people instead consuming media on their phones, there would be little need for every individual TV manufacturer to repeat this research if the trend was global and agnostic to individual suppliers.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is focussed on counting, numbers and statistics.

It may tell you, for instance, which football club is the most supported in individual countries, but it would be less useful for telling you why this was the case, or the motivations behind support.

Do people choose a team based on their trophy haul, their star players, their social media posts or is it other factors (or a combination of these).

Quant research provides insights that then demand further exploration. It may, for example, tell you that you have more customers in a certain age range, or location.

From this it might be deduced that these are the areas of groups to focus on, however deeper dives might query this basic level of understanding. It may be, for example, that sales would skyrocket elsewhere if only one of two niggles were addressed.

Quantitative research needs to be mixed with questioning minds that look at the data and ask sensible, probing questions from this that can be explored by…

Qualitative Research

… That can be explored by qualitative research.

Qualitative research dives beyond those initial, numerical findings and delves into motivations.

Why does a certain age group like the product, what puts off buyers or users in a certain country? Is it that there is a rival, is awareness low, does the product name inadvertently mean something regrettable in that language (it has happened!)

Qualitative research needs high quality, honest feedback to answer questions such as why is this, how could we improve, what don’t you like, what do you like about rival products?

The responses may need a thick skin to study at times, but the insights are what truly drive decisions and lead to improvement.

It is also notable that not all responses are equal. Some may give a top of head answer, or a response that is very personal, others touch upon issues that are more universal or of greater importance.

Qualitative research must be captured carefully and then delivered in a way that is easy to interrogate.

It is usual to gain this data at arm’s length. If, for example, a company contacts customers to ask for feedback, the responses might be less honest or less thorough than when professional market research companies contact users and handpick those with quality insight to be delivered.

There is a lot of noise to cut through to get to the insights of real value.

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The proof of our quality is in our case studies and past clients. Please take some time to view our past work, this shows how we worked with clients to understand their needs, advise as appropriate and deliver the findings that could benefit their business.

We have won awards, received accreditation and have professional certification, for instance for data usage – you can find out more on this site.

We also have a bespoke verification programme called Acumonitor, this verifies all participants. We take every step to ensure you can be confident in the validity of the research and analysis we provide.

Acumonitor is an example of how we are actively looking to drive the standards of market research forward – you can read more and watch a short video that explains more.