Market Research Types

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Market Research is divided into two major types, primary research and secondary research. The type of research used on a particular project depends on what information is needed to accurately answer your questions.

Primary Research. This is new research intended to answer specific business questions using various survey methods to collect original data and observations.

  • Exploratory Research – Exploratory research is used when there is little understanding of a topic and more information is required. It is less structured than other types of market research and employs more general and open-ended questions. For example, exploratory research may be used to gain insight into the details of a new technology. The research results could then be used to develop a more focused study to determine if, or how, the new technology could benefit the client.
  • Descriptive Research – Descriptive research is used to accurately describe something that is currently taking place. Examples of the types of questions that descriptive research attempts to answer might include “What gender is buying a particular brand, what is the annual household income and average age of the client’s customers, or how many competitors are in a particular market?” It is the most common type of market research and is used to find accurate answers to the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” marketing and business questions a client may have.
  • Causal Research – This type of research is used to find the cause and effect, or the “if…then,” relationship between variables.  The goal of this research is to gain insight into what happens when independent variables are manipulated. A question like, “What will happen if I change my product’s packaging?” is an excellent example of a causal research question.

Secondary Research. This is research that is conducted by utilizing existing studies or reports that are publically available. Sources used in this type of research include newspaper and magazine articles, journal reports, trade publications, industry statistics, or various government reports.