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Primary Market Research

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Primary Market Research

The words' primary' and 'secondary' in research data collection can be misleading since they may make us think that one is more important than another. In market research, primary and secondary simply indicate the data source. Primary data is collected for the first time, whereas secondary data refers to existing information. In today's explanation, let's look at primary data collection—what it is and how it is conducted.

Primary Market Research Definition

Primary market research, also known as field research, refers to data collected for the first time by a researcher or a business. The primary research method may involve surveys, interviews, or focus groups.

Primary Data Collection Definition

While secondary data is a good starting point in market research, marketers must collect primary data to fill the gap that existing data cannot provide. Primary data is not only up-to-date and authentic but also addresses the company's specific marketing needs.

Primary data collection is the collection of data for the marketing purpose at hand.

Primary Data Collection Method

Primary market research involves different research approaches, contact methods, and research instruments.

Primary Market Research: Research approaches

Primary data research approaches can be grouped into three main categories: observation, surveys, and experiments.

Observational research

The first primary research approach is observational research.

Observational research collects primary data by observing people, actions, and situations.

The collection of observational data may not directly involve a subject. For example, data is collected based on people's past transactions online and viewing habits on streaming platforms.

The number of likes and views on a video can serve as primary research data for a Youtube content creator.

Observational data also exists in many forms, ranging from text and numbers to images and videos.

An online article, bank transactions, streaming videos, etc. — Anything recordable can become primary data.

Another feature of observational data collection is that it may happen without people doing anything specific (e.g., monitoring mobile app usage) or taking a particular action (e.g., clicking like on a social media post). In some cases, companies can do ethnographic research to gather customer data. Ethnographic research involves sending a trained observer to watch people interact in their natural environment. This is a nondirect way to collect information about customer behavior.1

Survey research

Survey research is another popular method for primary data collection. It is used when a company wants to collect information in explicit detail. For example, when creating a buyer persona, companies can send out a survey to gather information about customers' beliefs, attitudes, preferences, and buying behavior.

Survey research involves asking people questions about their beliefs, attitudes, preferences, and buying behavior.

Survey research gives marketers great flexibility in data collection. It can be done in any situation and does not require a lot of equipment. The survey can be conducted in person, by phone, or by email. The main drawback is that customers may not remember all details about their actions and thus give incomplete answers. In some cases, customers may lie to appear knowledgeable or completely ignore the interviewer's questions for fear of privacy invasion.

A good example of survey research is the customer feedback request you receive after purchasing a product from a company.

Experimental research

The final method of primary data collection is experimental research. This research approach is often used to observe a cause-and-effect relationship.

Experimental research involves dividing subjects into groups, giving them different treatments, and observing alternate results.

A fried chicken restaurant wants to add a new sauce to its menu. They try out different spices for a week and observe customers' reactions. The one with the most positive feedback is then adopted permanently.

Primary Market Research: Contact methods

As you can see, there are many different research approaches, each with its benefits and uses. But how do they work out in real life? How can marketers reach consumers to conduct market research? Here are the most common contact methods for primary data collection:

  • Interviews - This can be done in person, by mail, or by phone.

  • Focus group interview - Companies send a trained interviewer to talk to a group of people about their product or brand.

  • Online market research - Data collection via the Internet and online survey, experiments, or online focus groups. An online focus group is a small group of people who gather online to discuss the product or brand with a moderator.

  • Behavioral tracking - Companies use online data to tailor product offerings to specific customers.

Primary Market Research: Research instruments

There are two main types of research instruments: questionnaires and mechanical devices.

  • Questionnaires are very common and easily implementable. They can be sent out in person, by email, by phone, or online.

  • Mechanical devices are instruments that monitor customer behavior - for example, mobile GPS to track customer location or MRI for brain scanning.

Standard questionnaires include closed and open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions limit interviewees' answers to a few choices, whereas open-ended questions are more open and exploratory by nature.2

For example, when asking for customers' dinner preferences, a closed-ended question would provide several pre-selected choices, such as pasta, salad, or hamburger. In contrast, an open-ended one would use a blank for the customer to fill in their answer.

Primary Research Methods

Carrying out primary research might involve a step-by-step process. In this section, we will identify the critical steps involved in carrying out primary research.

  1. Identification of an issue - The first step in the primary research process involves identifying the purpose of the research and what exactly the business is trying to discover.

  2. Selecting an appropriate research design - One of the essential steps involves choosing a data collection method and relevant questions that will assist the company in addressing a specific issue.

  3. Data collection - This is essential to collect accurate data. Therefore, the company must use reliable survey collection sites and trained staff for conducting interviews. Once the data is collected, researchers must securely store it.

  4. Data analysis - In this step, the collected data is analyzed and interpreted to provide helpful information for addressing the business problem. Businesses will use this data to generate reports and make action plans.

  5. Presenting data and developing an action plan - As the final step of primary research collection, reports are generated and presented in a way that can be easily understood by coworkers who may not have been involved in the research. In addition, research results can assist businesses in developing a strategy and action plan to address an issue.

Primary Data Collection Examples

You can come across primary data collection in many daily situations - for example:

  • An online course sends a survey to see how students like the content.

  • A cleaning service company interviews customers to see how satisfied they are with the service.

  • A shop owner visits a competitor's store to see how they interact with customers.

  • A restaurant chain tests new prices in two different locations before implementing them.

  • A coffee shop asks its customers to try their new recipes and give feedback.

In all of these cases, the collection involves the researcher directly going to the source and gathering information.

Primary Market Research Examples

There are many types of primary research, but what they all have in common is that they are conducted first-hand by the business or a researcher. Here is an example of how businesses can use primary research:

A company may want to find out how customers feel about the new product they have recently released. The most effective way to do this is by carrying out primary research. The business can find this information by conducting focus groups and collecting consumers' thoughts and opinions regarding the product. The data can help them develop surveys, for instance, to reach a broader population and address particular questions that have arisen during focus groups.

Primary Data Collection Advantages

Collecting data first-hand comes with three main benefits:

  • Up-to-date information: Secondary data can be outdated and irrelevant. This is not the case for primary data, as it is collected based on the company's marketing needs.

  • More accurate information: Primary data involves directly contacting individuals for their opinions and thus is more reliable than secondary data.

  • Problem-focused: Surveys and questionnaires are designed based on the organization's problem, unlike secondary data, which can be pretty broad and vague.

  • Convenience: A number of primary research methods are pretty convenient. For example, online research and telephone or online surveys can be carried out from the office and do not require traveling. This means a large population size can be covered quickly and inexpensively.

Primary Data Collection Disadvantages

The drawbacks of primary data collection include:

  • Costly implementation - Primary data collection relies on first-hand data and thus may involve special equipment and visits to information sources.

  • Time-consuming - Organising surveys, questionnaires, and interviews for new data collection take time. Secondary data, however, requires less planning as researchers draw conclusions from existing references.

  • Entails more people - A lot more people are involved in primary research than secondary research. Researchers will carry out various tasks, including creating the survey, interviewing customers, and analyzing the results.

  • Trained observers are required - Interviewers and observers must be trained professionals with many years of experience interacting with people.

  • Responses may be unreliable - Questionnaire and survey answers may not reveal all truths about customers, as customers can lie to appear intelligent and informed. They may also give inaccurate information when they can't fully remember their actions.

  • Misleading results if not performed correctly - Research results can be biased if the research process is not done correctly. A number of factors can lead to this, including misinterpretation of results, analysis of data according to one's opinions, and inaccuracy.

Primary vs. Secondary Market Research

What is the difference between primary and secondary market research? Other than the fact that primary research is conducted for the first time and secondary market research involves analyzing data that has already been collected by someone else for other purposes, primary and secondary market research have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a look at some of them.

Difference between Primary and secondary data collection

In Table 1, you will find the main contrasting points of these two research methods:

Primary data collection

Secondary data collection

Definition

Collection of new data to meet marketing needs

Sourcing existing relevant data

Data collection

By the company (or outsourced)

By someone else

Research methods

Survey

Observations

Experiments

Looking into existing data

Advantage

More accurate and specific to marketing needs

Time-saving and cheap

Disadvantages

Costly and time-consuming

Outdated data and not specific

Table 1. Primary vs. Secondary data collection, StudySmarter Originals

As you can see, primary data collection is the collection of new data by the company to meet specific marketing needs. In contrast, secondary data collection involves the use of existing information. Companies use primary research to attain more accurate, up-to-date, and problem-focused data; however, this type of research can be very costly and time-consuming. To save money and effort, marketers tend to look into secondary data first and conduct primary research to fill the gaps.

Primary data collection - Key takeaways

  • Primary data collection is the collection of information first-hand for the company's needs.
  • There are three primary research methods: observational, survey, and experimental.
  • Data can be collected via interviews, focus groups, online market research, and behavioral tracking.
  • The most common tool for primary data collection is questionnaires. There might also be mechanical tools involved, such as GPS and MRI.
  • The main advantages of primary data collection are up-to-date, specific, and accurate data.
  • The drawback of primary data collection involves costs, time, and human resources.

References

  1. Ken Anderson, Harvard Business Review, Ethnographic Research: A Key to Strategy, 2009.
  2. Survey Monkey, Closed-ended vs open-ended questions, 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions about Primary Market Research

The five primary research methods are questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, observation, and field research.

Primary data collection is the collection of data for the marketing purpose at hand. Primary data collection involves collecting data for the first time, whereas secondary data collection involves collecting existing data gathered by someone else.

One of the primary groups of focus in market research is consumers. Gathering information about consumer attitudes and behavior will help marketers understand how to target and position their products. Another group of focus includes customers who have previously purchased one of the business's products. This helps marketers understand their attitudes and any problems they face using the product.

While secondary data is a good starting point in market research, marketers must collect primary data to fill the gap that existing data cannot provide. Primary data is not only up-to-date and authentic but also addresses the company's specific marketing needs. 

Primary market research, also known as field research, refers to data collected for the first time by a researcher or a business. Primary data collection is the collection of data for the marketing purpose at hand.    

Final Primary Market Research Quiz

Question

What is NOT an advantage of primary data collection?

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Costly

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Question

What are the benefits of primary data collection?

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Answer

Up-to-date information

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Who conducts primary market research? 

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The company itself or an outsourced party

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Primary data in market research is always reliable. 

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True

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Open-ended questions are suitable for exploratory research. 

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True

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A focus group is _____________ .

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A group of customers whom the company interviews to get feedback about its products/brand.

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Question

Data collected by observing people, actions, and situations is called ____________.

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Answer

observational data

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Question

Ethnographic research is a _________ method of collecting data about customer behaviour. 


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non-direct

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Question

The research method that involves asking people questions about their beliefs, attitudes, and preferences is called ________.

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Survey research. 

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Experimental research involves _________, giving them different treatments, and observing alternate results. 

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diving subjects into groups

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Observational data cannot exist in form of videos or images. 

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True

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Why are responses from primary data collection not always reliable?

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Because customers may not remember their actions and give incomplete answers. Sometimes, they may lie to appear smart and informed. 

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Why does primary research involve a lot of people?

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It takes more than one person to prepare, conduct, and analyse surveys, interviews, questionnaires, etc.

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A variable is a value that _______.

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changes

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A variable that depends on another variable is called _________.

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An independent variable

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Experimental researched can be ________, manipulated, or __________.

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controlled, random

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Research, where you can change the independent variable to measure the effect on the dependent variable, is called __________.


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Manipulated experimental research

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Correlational research allows the manipulation of variables. 

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True

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Experimental research observes the cause and effect relationship between variables. 

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True

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In a cause-and-effect relationship, one event follows the other. The second event can't happen without the first. 

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True

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______________ is research where all outside factors are kept constant. Only the measured variable is changed

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Controlled experimental research

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A company changes its packaging but keeps everything the same to observe the impact of the new packaging on sales. This is an example of _____ experimental research. 

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controlled

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A bakery changes the amount of flour in its bread to observe customer reactions. This is an example of ______ experimental research. 

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controlled

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Which research method provides an accurate description of the current state?

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Descriptive research method

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The descriptive research method can assess the causal relationship among variables. 

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True

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Which research methods are used to understand the relationship between variables? (More than one answers are possible)

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Correlational research 

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In quasi-experimental research, the variation is caused by _________.

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an external shock

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What is Quasi-experimental research used for?


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To understand the impact of customer or firm changes

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Experimental research mostly relies on guesswork, not actual data from real experience. 

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True

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Survey research is one of the ___________ methods.

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primary data collection

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Survey research is a primary data collection method where the researcher learns about _____________ by asking them direct questions. 

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customers' attitudes, preferences, and buying behaviour

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The main benefit of survey research is flexibility.

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True

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Responses from surveys are not always reliable because ___________


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Customers may provide inaccurate information

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Survey research can be conducted via phone, email, online, or _______. 

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in person

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___________ explains the cause-and-effect relationships between variables.


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Causal research

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Likert Scale (rating from 1 to 5) is often found in _________


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Descriptive research 

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Which type of research often includes a questionnaire with open-ended questions?

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Exploratory research

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Open-ended questions are questions that require a detailed response based on customers' unique perspectives.  


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True

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Online surveying is one of the cheapest research methods.


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True

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Online surveys can be sent via _______.

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emails, websites, or social media

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Face-to-face surveys or interviews mean __________________.


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meeting with customers in person or online

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Market research survey is a way of acquiring data about __________.


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the target market.

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Market research survey _________ from the equation and provides customers with what they actually want. 


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removes the guesswork

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The purpose of causal research is to determine which variable is dependent and which is independent, then examine the relationship between them. 

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True

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Independent variables change as the dependent variables change. 

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True

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Causal survey research is mainly based on ____________.


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Experiments

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Which types of research is structured and pre-planned? (More than one answer is possible)

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Descriptive research

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Observational research gathers primary data about customers by observing them in their most _____ settings. 

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natural

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Direct observation happens when researchers watch the subject perform a task or ask them direct questions.

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True

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The type of research where the researcher observes the subject interacting in their everyday situations, such as in an office or home is called _____________.

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ethnographic observation

Show question

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