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Secondary vs. Primary Market Research

The items of information collected to support market research are often referred to as data, which can be of two types – primary and secondary. You must pay attention to analyzing your market, irrespective of the size of your business.

Primary Research

When information is collected with a research program carried out for a specific purpose, it is known as primary study or research. When understanding a new market, this usually applies to niche sectors or sub-sectors of mainstream markets because little or no published data is preexisting. For example, if you are looking at an allied automobile industry that manufactures a particular car part for large auto-makers, you may not find existing information. Similarly, if you are launching a new product you may need to conduct a primary study. Same goes for a product repositioning. There are a number of scenarios that will call for a targeted survey and evaluation.

The first step in primary research involves understanding the eco-system by identifying the target buyers, competitors, regulatory agencies and so on. Then, sampling methods are employed to select the list of respondents. Finally, appropriate data collection techniques are chosen for each sub-category within the sample population. Broadly, following are the methodologies used:

  • Interview: Usually involves speaking to the managers and decision makers of industry players, who could be existing consumers/manufacturers of same or similar products/services as the subject of the study. This approach also works well while approaching regulatory authorities.
  • Behavior Study: This technique works best for B2C businesses or social studies. This involves a multi-pronged strategy to observe the behavioral patterns of the sample – types of products purchased, price paid, frequency, physical count of traffic, and so on. For instance, a hidden camera can be an effective way of establishing how customers move through a departmental store.
  • Focus Groups: This method collects qualitative insights on existing or planned offerings. Focus groups consist of a small group of respondents that share similar characteristics to discuss relevant points about the subject. The moderator ensures that the participants are able to interact with each other freely, cover all the relevant areas and that meaningful information is collected.
  • Survey: This involves various types of low-cost online and offline techniques. Surveys cover larger samples, bigger geographies, and mostly take the form of questionnaires.
Existing businesses often use cleverly crafted systems to gather some important primary data from the existing customer base. Primary research requires astute planning, market identification, sampling, application of appropriate techniques for maximum efficiency, data analysis, and realistic market sizing. Learn how experienced agencies and business consultants can help achieve meaningful results keeping the time-cost balance.


CATI, PAPI, F2F, Web Surveys, Telephonic Interviews
Secondary Research
Secondary market study, also known as desk research, is most suitable for subjects already covered by someone else before and where published data is already available. For instance, upcoming industries are usually covered by a number of agencies. Similarly, allied economic data is often available from government sources.
External resources of secondary data include in government departments, trade organizations, professional body, the press, and specialist research bureaus. Some research bureaus run syndicated research programs in specialized fields. These programs are co-operative efforts funded by the industry players. Bureaus occasionally mount a program of research and provide the results available to anyone interested. Trade associations frequently make certain info freely available to their members, but sell it to outsiders.
The fact that secondary data is preexisting doesn’t mean that it can be used as such. In fact, this is hardly the case and that is because each different research exercises may have different goals. Usually, data has to be collected from multiple sources. It is then reformatted, filtered, sorted and synthesized to make it ready for analysis. Statistical analysis is then performed on the processed data.Proper planning must be done before starting a desk research, including the project scoping. Similarly, discretion is required in cases where data from two sources varies widely or only insufficient information can be obtained. Sometimes, the best approach is to combine primary and secondary research. An expert research agency can help you decide on most effective and cost efficient plan of execution, while freeing up the management time for other critical functions. Eurion Constellation is a research and consulting firm assisting organizations of all sizes in U.S., Canada, Europe and Indian markets. Please visit for more information or drop us a line at

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