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The field of market research is highly complex and continuously evolving, with new research strategies and techniques constantly being innovated by market research practitioners. But while it’s true there are many different types of research, all market research can be characterized as one of two categories: primary market research or secondary market research. 

Both play an important role in the overall market research process, and any comprehensive approach to market research should incorporate both techniques. 

There are several major differences between primary and secondary research. It’s important to bear these in mind when strategizing a research approach. In this article, we’ll explore both primary and secondary research techniques, explain when (and how) to use them, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches. 

Let’s dive in. 

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Market Research

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Primary Market Research

Primary market research is new research that the researcher conducts first-hand. Researchers gather respondents and collect research data directly from them. This is achieved through techniques like interviews, behavioral observations, or market research surveys. 

Primary market research serves to uncover new insights which were not previously known. The process creates new knowledge, which organizations can use for any number of reasons: to design new products and services, refine marketing collateral, or improve customer experiences. In essence, well-conducted primary research unlocks insights that drive more-informed decision making. This enables organizations to build sustainable competitive advantages.

Types of Primary Market Research Technique

The market research process typically employs both qualitative and quantitative techniques and aims to test existing hypotheses and discover new insights. The process tends to begin with exploratory, qualitative research techniques that explore broad themes and concepts. After using the input from the exploratory phase to refine the scope of the research, researchers then use quantitative market research techniques to produce data-driven insights.

There are several different techniques commonly used to conduct primary research. These include:

  • Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Surveys
  • Observations
  • Ethnography
  • Prediction Markets

The techniques used for any given primary research initiative will be driven by the scope of the research project. Some of these techniques, like interviews and basic types of surveys, can be completed on a do-it-yourself basis. More advanced techniques that yield greater insights, like consumer observations or prediction market research, require the support of an experienced market research vendor. 

How to Conduct Effective Primary Market Research

Conducting effective primary market research may seem simple; after all, anyone can create a survey and send it out to their mailing list. But in reality, primary market research is much more complex. Research that is conducted poorly will yield little insight, and may even lead organizations in completely the wrong direction.

It’s important to bear in mind these characteristics of good primary market research:

Representative Sampling

Primary research shouldn’t be conducted with just anyone; it should be carried out with a representative group of research respondents who share characteristics with the wider group the research aims to understand. 

Generally, this means conducting research with existing customers, or with customers of a competitor. The size of the sample is important too, particularly in quantitative research. By including a large number of research participants, it’s easier for researchers to uncover statistically significant findings which can be extrapolated to a larger group. 

Ensure Impartiality

In order to avoid skewing the results, it’s critical that primary market research is conducted impartially. Participants can be eager to please and may provide answers that don’t reflect their true behaviors. 

Many organizations choose to partner with an external market research firm for exactly this reason. Partnering with an experienced research provider ensures that participants are unaware of the organization that is sponsoring the research and are therefore unlikely to unduly exhibit any bias in their responses.

Manage Response Bias

Response bias occurs when participants are asked about their own behavior. Research has shown that participants tend to answer in an optimistic, aspirational manner that does not reflect how they would actually behave. This is a common issue across many primary research techniques. 

One way to address response bias is to use prediction market research. These services, like HUUNU, ask research participants to predict how others might behave and to place virtual wagers that indicate their confidence level. Prediction market research has been proven to increase the accuracy of primary market research.

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HUUNU Futures forecasts the future development of the plant-base proteins market

Secondary Market Research

Secondary market research adds context to the insights produced by primary market research, enabling researchers to more accurately place their findings in the context of the broader market or ecosystem.

In conducting secondary market research, researchers incorporate existing bodies of data to build a more comprehensive understanding of the organization’s customers, competitors, and the wider competitive environment. The process of secondary market research includes everything from identifying and analyzing these bodies of data to producing and sharing actionable insights generated from the research.

Types of Secondary Market Research Technique

With the proliferation of the digital age, there is now a seemingly endless and constantly growing supply of secondary market research data. Researchers can, and should, incorporate secondary market research data from a wide range of sources. It’s important to ensure that these data sources are reputable.

Some of the most prevalent sources include:

Of course, working with this volume of data presents many challenges for market researchers, and market research teams are increasingly turning to technology for help.

How to Conduct Effective Secondary Market Research

Conducting effective secondary market research requires market researchers to embrace technology. Only by using technology can researchers decipher the signal from the noise and uncover actionable insights from large bodies of data. 

Market and Competitive Intelligence (M/CI) platforms like Knowledge360 play an important role here. Knowledge360 uses sophisticated AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies to enable researchers to systematically source, analyze, and share insights from secondary market research sources. 

Knowledge360 comes with more than 50 prebuilt integrations to high-quality data sources, including numerous U.S. government agencies, syndicated market research providers, and industry specific sources. Researchers can also incorporate their own primary market research data and insights into Knowledge360. This ensures all market research knowledge is resident in one platform that is easily accessible by decision makers across the organization.  

Partner with Cipher on Your Next Market Research Project 

Market research is an extremely complex discipline. Conducting effective research initiatives requires both great expertise and sophisticated research technology. 

At Cipher, our team is equipped with all the skills and technology necessary to ensure your next market research project is a resounding success. From experienced market research consultants, to market-leading prediction market research technology in HUUNU, Cipher has everything you need to drive high-quality insights from market research.

To learn more about primary and secondary market research, visit our Learning Center, or check out our Ultimate Guide to Market Research. If you’re interested in working with our team on your next market research project, schedule a call today.

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