4 Minute Read

Rapidly shifting consumer demands and disruptive market trends now mean the practice of market research is more important than ever before.

Every company conducts market research using slightly different tools and strategies, but all effective market research initiatives will roughly follow the same process

Companies typically start a market research initiative with a number of questions, issues, or hypotheses that they wish to explore. These are generated in a variety of ways: feedback from customers, the opinions of executives, or insights gained from competitive intelligence initiatives. The company will then embark on several phases of research, led either by internal research functions or an external market research analyst. 

The phases of market research that companies should conduct include:

  1. Exploratory market research
  2. Primary market research
  3. Secondary market research
  4. Reporting and sharing insights
  5. Monitoring developments on an ongoing basis

Let’s explore how companies conduct market research at each of these stages. 

-- Article Continues Below --

New call-to-action

Exploratory Market Research

All market research initiatives tend to begin with an exploratory phase of market research that helps to refine the rest of the research process. The goal of exploratory market research is to discover new ideas and concepts, validate the assumptions and hypotheses that prompted the research in the first place, and clarify the scope of further research.

Exploratory market research primarily involves the use of qualitative research methodologies, including interviews and focus groups. Researcher analysts will pose questions around a range of hypotheses. These hypotheses are often generated from market and competitive intelligence activities, which can be tracked with platforms like Knowledge360Ⓡ

The research conducted in this phase is relatively unstructured. Researchers will have an agenda of topics which must be covered, but will be given the freedom to dive deeper into specific areas when participants raise interesting points of view.

Following the conclusion of exploratory market research, companies should have a list of validated research issues and hypotheses. They can then test these - at scale with a larger group of respondents by conducting primary market research. 

Primary Market Research

Primary market research is perhaps the most well-known methodology of market research and plays an important role in enabling companies to systematically test the hypotheses they have with a representative sample of research respondents. 

The majority of primary market research adopts a quantitative approach which produces data-driven, measurable outcomes. Techniques utilized here include surveys and polls. Advanced variations of these methods can be used to obtain more specific information from respondents. 


All successful primary market research shares some common characteristics. They include:

  • Representative Sampling: the participants included in the research should closely match the makeup of the target audience the research seeks to understand.
  • Statistical Significance: the research should include a large enough sample size to ensure that the insights generated from the research can be reliably extrapolated to a larger population.
  • Accounting for Response Bias: response bias occurs when respondents are asked to share their opinion, and is the difference between how a person wishes they would behave and how they actually behave. 

Achieving representative sampling and statistical significance is relatively straightforward and can be achieved by selecting a large, diverse group of respondents. However, it’s often more difficult for companies to account for response bias when using traditional primary research methods. One approach that many leading companies are taking is to utilize prediction market research techniques, which capture judgment on how a target audience will behave through betting on outcomes in a gaming environment rather than asking for personal opinion in a survey.

Related: Prediction Market Research Services

-- Article Continues Below --

New call-to-action

Secondary Market Research

Companies conduct secondary market research to add a rich layer of context to the findings generated by primary research. Secondary research incorporates existing datasets and information to help researchers better understand the findings of primary research in the context of the wider marketplace. 

Secondary market research produces an enormous amount of data for companies to deal with. It’s important to only utilize data from reliable third-party sources with a proven track record. To deal with the ever-increasing quantity of secondary market research data, firms are increasingly turning to sophisticated market and competitive intelligence platforms like Knowledge360. 

Knowledge360 has pre-built integrations with over 50 different sources of secondary market research and employs sophisticated AI technology to discover, analyze, and display the most important pieces of secondary market research. 

Reporting and Sharing Insights

Market research initiatives are only valuable to companies if the insights generated are shared widely with--and used by--the key decision-makers in the organization. Market research can be complex, but it’s important to distill the key research findings into actionable insights that can be easily understood by key stakeholders.

Plant PM PredictionsOften, the best way to share insights is using visual representations of the data, such as graphics and charts. Researchers should take care to clearly highlight the key findings of the research process in a topline summary and be prepared to answer questions from executives. 

It’s possible to unify primary market research findings alongside secondary market research by creating real-time dashboards in Knowledge360. This ensures that decision-makers always have the most up-to-date information as they need it and can rely on market research to guide their decision-making. 

Monitoring Developments on an Ongoing Basis

Once a market research project has been completed, it might be tempting to sit back and relax. But the best companies realize that the market is not static. Consumer demands are constantly shifting and market conditions are adapting to meet them.

Chocolate Dash - 600x300Market research is not a one-and-done project; it is an ongoing process. Companies should track the findings of their market research over time to stay current on market trends. This is especially true with methodologies like prediction market research, which seeks to understand how future market and customer trends will unfold. 

By monitoring the market and consumer sentiment over time, companies can better understand customer demands. The findings generated by market research initiatives should be utilized to create better customer experiences that set companies apart from the competition, and it’s only possible to do this with ongoing monitoring. 

Partner with the Experts at Cipher on Your Next Market Research Initiative

Market research is a highly complex field. Without the right approach, tools, and experience, it’s all too easy to run a market research project that fails to yield actionable insight. The majority of market research initiatives will loosely follow the process described here, but every company will conduct market research in a slightly different way.

If you’re unfamiliar with the market research process, the team at Cipher is here to help. Read our Ultimate Guide to Market Research, or explore our Learning Center to dive deep on individual market research topics. 

If you’d like more support on a market research project, schedule a call with one of our consultants. 

Market Research