What’s the Difference Between Primary & Secondary Market Research?
10 Jun 2022

What’s the Difference Between Primary & Secondary Market Research?

Market research can help with so many marketing and strategy initiatives, including:

  • Generating product concepts or ideas
  • Launching a new product or service for the first time
  • Understanding your brand vs. the competition
  • Assess your target audience and prospects
  • Rebranding a product or service
  • Assess current or potential advertising 
  • Monitoring the current market landscape
  • Providing thought leadership

Brands mustn’t overlook the importance of market research. Lack of market research or conducting research too late can lead to brand failure, as it has for brands as large as Coca-Cola, P&G, and Microsoft. Timing is critical during every step of a product launch, and all brand strategists and marketing professionals should make research a priority. If market research is pushed to the bottom of the list, potential problems could arise that could have been easily prevented. Also, research helps a brand target initiatives, ultimately improving ROI. 

Before starting market research, it is essential to understand the two types of research: primary and secondary. 

Secondary Research

What is Secondary Research?

Secondary research, often called meta-data analysis, involves compiling and analyzing already available information. Information can be obtained through online databases, libraries, and online searches. With a range of readily available resources, including articles, studies, and even past studies, secondary research can arm brands with available knowledge, as well as map the white space, so brands are not echoing research that already exists. Along with traditional resources, a brand can look at innovative ways to get data, such as visiting a museum or online sources that assess your competitors’ websites. 

Some areas you can analyze using secondary research include trends and competitive analysis. In an ever-changing market, this methodology can assess how e how social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental trends impact your business. It can also be used to analyze all aspects of your competition, including market situation, promotions, channels, messaging, and touchpoints.

Map the White Space 

Although the name may be misleading, secondary research can be the first step in conducting market research. Brands that commission secondary research can gain a better understanding of their industry, including top competitors and trends in the market.

Secondary research can be cost-effective and provides a broad range of information. Additionally, if your brand is thinking about conducting primary research, commissioning secondary research first can guide your initiative and prevent duplicating efforts (e.g., producing research already out there). 

Behind a Paywall

While there are many free and public-facing resources, many valuable databases can only be accessed through subscriptions. It is important for brands considering secondary research to partner with a research firm that has access to information that may be behind a paywall. This proprietary knowledge gives brands an advantage over the competition, as they will be better armed with insights that will make a real impact on the next phase of their custom research. 

Primary Research

What is Primary Research?

Primary research is research that is not already out there; it produces original, fresh data for a range of initiatives. So how do you collect primary data? Depending on the objective of the research, you may conduct qualitative research, quantitative studies, or a combination of the two. 

  • Quantitative research, also called descriptive, is designed to help project what a population looks like (e.g., demographically, behaviorally, attitudes). It is number focused and ideally has over 250 respondents in the analysis to be statistically representative of the population. Surveys are the typical methodology to execute this type of data. Typically this methodology includes mostly close-ended questions. Quantitative research is great for projecting market potential, developing audiences, and assessing brand equity or advertising campaigns. 
  • Qualitative research, also called exploratory, is directional in nature and focuses on gaining ideas and insights. This is often done through focus groups, in-depth interviews, ethnographic research, and online boards. Qualitative guides mostly include open-ended questions. The research also includes a moderator to help guide the conversation and probe for additional information. Qualitative is useful for product or advertising idea ideation, as well as helping you walk in your consumers’ shoes. 


Both primary and secondary research can be highly useful when successfully launching a new brand. Overall, both types of market research in your brand’s business plan are crucial for success.

Interested in reading more on market research? Check out our other blogs here. 
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