Companies, both new and old, regularly require information and answers that can only be obtained by conducting online market research. There are, in effect, just two ways to achieve this: you carry out primary market research, or you search for secondary market research. So what does this actually mean, and how does primary and secondary research differ?
Primary marketing research is, fundamentally, original research that you own. You either collected it yourself, or paid an employee or company to do it for you. The main reason companies’ conduct this form of research is to gain a competitive edge over their rivals. You can find out specific information, be it about your own business, the market you sell to, your customers, or even your competition. You identify your needs, decide upon a research methodology that best suits you, and collect your tailored results.
So how do you set about achieving this? The most common methods of collecting primary market research are by circulating surveys, conducting interviews, and utilising focus groups. The research can either be quantitative or qualitative; that is, either serious figures and facts, or attitudes, responses, opinions and the like. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but it’s up to you to decide which will be of more benefit to your company. For example, you can use primary research to assess how effective a nationwide advertising campaign will be, before investing the funds required to produce and promote it, just by first showing and discussing it with small, target-specific groups. Or, you can produce a survey designed for your customers to answer via social media, and evaluate the responses you receive in regard to a new product, service, or brand image change etc.
Secondary marketing research is research that is already available to you and your competitors. The data has been collected by other people, probably for other purposes, but can still be of relevance to your business. It is difficult to identify the best methods of collecting secondary research, because the information can differ greatly in format. It could be statistical data, geo-demographical data, or research reports, and can be collected from libraries, journals, or online sources etc. However, unlike primary research, secondary research is not tailored towards your needs. It is usually a much cheaper and quicker method of discovering information, but you may find the relevance to your requirements is poor. The information may also be outdated, or potentially biased.
Any market research you carry out will undoubtedly only serve to help grow your business, or at the very least streamline certain areas, as you gain a better understanding of your consumer’s likes, dislikes, wants and needs. Sometimes you may have to bite the bullet and collect the information you need yourself, other times you be fortunate enough to find someone has already done it for you. The most successful companies however, find ways to utilise both forms of market research.