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Marketing Research Methods Exploratory Essay

The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Research

Market Research is Pivotal for the Success of Your Business

If you're starting a new business, launching a new product or opening a new location, market research is essential for your success. There are two core forms of research: primary research and secondary research. 

Primary Research

Primary research is designed to meet your unique and specific needs. The research is conducted by you, or by a research firm you hire for the project. The research can include focus groups, surveys, interviews, and observations.

Unlike other forms of research, where you apply the work of others to your business, primary research aims to answer questions relevant solely to your company. For instance, if you are launching a new website and want feedback on its design and efficacy, your research firm would share it with focus groups to gauge their responses to the site. 

Primary research gives you more specific results. Usually, the research firm will use statistical models to come up with a sample group that is representative of your target audiences, making it very relevant to your business needs. Primary research provides two basic forms:


Exploratory research does not aim for a specific result or data point; it is more open-ended. It can help you identify problems and usually involves interviews or focus groups with extensive input from participants. For example, if you noticed your website was not producing any sales but you do not know why you would interview a focus group to see what the problem was.

They might say they found it hard to navigate or they found it overwhelming; without open-ended discussion, you would not get that valuable feedback. 


Specific research is very targeted in its scope. It is used to solve the problem that you discovered through exploratory research. Usually done through interviews, specific primary research usually involves interviews and is very precise.

In the example of your website, once the exploratory research identified the problem, that your website sales were down due to difficulties navigating the site, you would use specific research to test reactions to new layouts. One major downside to primary market research is cost. Running a study yourself or hiring a research form can cost thousands of dollars, making it inaccessible for many small business owners. 

Secondary Market Research

Secondary market research is when you use previously completed studies and apply the results to your own situation. It's easy to find using the internet or research journals and is usually free or low cost. The drawback for businesses is that the results are not specific to your business, and you may not be aware of all of the variables involved. The results may also be broader than your company's niche, making to more difficult to help inform your business decisions. 

What Kind of Research You Should Use

For many business owners, the best approach is to start with secondary research. By looking at regional data, community surveys and other available information, you can help identify your audience and market. Once you have narrowed down your target group, you can do lower cost versions of primary market research, such as sending out surveys or questionnaires.

Secondary research gives you a foundation to build on, while the primary research helps you identify specific needs. 

3 Types of Survey Research, When to Use Them, and How they Can Benefit Your Organization!

Posted by FluidSurveys TeamJune 3, 2014Categories:  Survey Design, Research Design, Best Practices

Most research can be divided into three different categories; exploratory, descriptive and causal. Each serves a different end purpose and can only be used in certain ways. In the online survey world, mastery of all three can lead to sounder insights and greater quality information. Over the next couple weeks we’ll be taking a look into all these forms of research and how you can incorporate each in your organization’s strategies for improvement and growth as well as measuring your company’s level of success. Today, let’s do a quick overview of all three types of research, and how they fit in a research plan.

Exploratory Research

Exploratory research is an important part of any marketing or business strategy. Its focus is on the discovery of ideas and insights as opposed to collecting statistically accurate data. That is why exploratory research is best suited as the beginning of your total research plan. It is most commonly used for further defining company issues, areas for potential growth, alternative courses of action, and prioritizing areas that require statistical research.

When it comes to online surveys, the most common example of exploratory research takes place in the form of open-ended questions. Think of the exploratory questions in your survey as expanding your understanding of the people you are surveying. Text responses may not be statistically measureable, but they will give you richer quality information that can lead to the discovery of new initiatives or problems that should be addressed.

Descriptive Research

Descriptive research takes up the bulk of online surveying and is considered conclusive in nature due to its quantitative nature. Unlike exploratory research, descriptive research is preplanned and structured in design so the information collected can be statistically inferred on a population.

The main idea behind using this type of research is to better define an opinion, attitude, or behaviour held by a group of people on a given subject. Consider your everyday multiple choice question. Since there are predefined categories a respondent must choose from, it is considered descriptive research. These questions will not give the unique insights on the issues like exploratory research would. Instead, grouping the responses into predetermined choices will provide statistically inferable data. This allows you to measure the significance of your results on the overall population you are studying, as well as the changes of your respondent’s opinions, attitudes, and behaviours over time.

Causal Research

Like descriptive research, causal research is quantitative in nature as well as preplanned and structured in design. For this reason, it is also considered conclusive research. Causal research differs in its attempt to explain the cause and effect relationship between variables. This is opposed to the observational style of descriptive research, because it attempts to decipher whether a relationship is causal through experimentation. In the end, causal research will have two objectives: 1) To understand which variables are the cause and which variables are the effect, and 2) to determine the nature of the relationship between the causal variables and the effect to be predicted.

For example, a cereal brand owner wants to learn if they will receive more sales with their new cereal box design. Instead of conducting descriptive research by asking people whether they would be more likely to buy their cereal in its new box, they would set up an experiment in two separate stores. One will sell the cereal in only its original box and the other with the new box. Taking care to avoid any outside sources of bias, they would then measure the difference between sales based on the cereal packaging. Did the new packaging have any effect on the cereal sales? What was that effect?

Are Your Research Senses Tingling? Ready for More?

So we have had a taster of the three major types of research. Over the next couple weeks we will be going in depth into each one and how you can use FluidSurveys to make them work for you. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether you’re doing internal or external research, or whether your projects’ end goal is to improve a business’s image, increase a product’s sales or kick start an initiative’s on the right foot. Finding the proper balance between exploratory, descriptive and causal research will be a major factor in your goals’ success.

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