Primary and secondary research types and sources 

Editor’s note: Deeksha Khanna is the senior associate of marketing at Torfac. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “Primary Vs Secondary Market Research: Types, Sources, and Examples.”

Market research is critical for businesses to learn about trends and consumer behaviors. It also helps organizations make critical decisions, identify new opportunities, identify competitors and improve their offerings. The achievement of business objectives is the primary criterion for successful market research. Key objectives include increasing the company’s market reputation, improving product performance and gauging customer reactions to price changes or new market developments.

What is primary market research?

Primary market research is a method for determining the viability of a product or service based on information gathered directly from the source – potential customers. Primary market research is conducted from the ground up, rather than relying on previously worked research.

In-person interviews, focus groups, surveys, product trials, product testing and direct observations are all standard methods of conducting primary market research. Marketers typically conduct primary research to address a specific issue that necessitates in-depth analysis.

The types of primary market research

Quantitative market research

Rather than focusing on consumers’ feelings, opinions and attitudes, quantitative market research focuses on numerical data. The procedure entails gathering a large number of statistical points via surveys, polls and questionnaires. The mathematical, statistical and computational methods allow researchers to collect data that can then be analyzed to determine patterns and averages, make predictions and generalizations. The goal of quantitative market research is to identify and understand the problem. Quantitative market research can provide highly accurate results, allowing businesses to develop a clear picture of their goals and how to achieve them.

Qualitative market research

To gain insights into consumer opinions, motivations or experiences, qualitative market research collects behavioral, observational and non-numerical data such as audio, text or video. Open-ended questions and a small sample size of six to 10 respondents are used in qualitative market research, allowing for an in-depth discussion of the topics. Focus groups and interviews are the most common methods for conducting qualitative market research.

What are primary market research sources?

In-depth interviews, surveys, focus groups, social media monitoring and questionnaires are primary research sources.

In-depth interviews

In-depth interviews are excellent for learning how a specific customer group perceives a brand or product. In-depth interviews are usually interactive and have a flexible structure. A trusted moderator conducts these interviews, considering not only the respondent’s answers but also body language and overall impression.


Surveys aid in the collection of a large amount of information about the characteristics and preferences of the population. Marketers will be able to use this data in the future to predict consumer behavior.

Focus groups 

Focus groups are interviews with selected participants who represent the target audience. Participants in the group are chosen based on specific criteria such as location, age, socioeconomic status and so on.


Questionnaires are a type of research tool that consists of a series of closed-ended or open-ended questions designed to elicit feedback from your customers. There are various types of questionnaires, including computer, telephone and mail questionnaires.

Hypothesis testing for existing products via A/B or multivariate testing allows for examining prices for different markets or audiences, comparing web page design and conversion effectiveness and so on. Although the core mechanisms of both methods are similar, multivariate testing compares a greater number of variables and provides more information.

Social media monitoring 

Targeted social media monitoring aids in the discovery of information about your company, industry and competitors. This data includes all mentions of your brand, such as product reviews, product questions or service repair complaints.

What is secondary market research?

Secondary market research is a type of market research that uses data from secondary sources that were not previously prepared specifically for the purposes of the current study. In other words, in secondary research, marketers collect and analyze previously collected data for purposes other than their research. 

Secondary data is frequently obtained from industry and trade associations, government agencies, media outlets, industry-specific newsletters, magazines and newspapers. This type of research is typically less expensive and more accessible than primary market research.

Types of secondary market research

Secondary market research is classified into two types: Internal secondary market research and external secondary market research.

Internal data: Internal data can be found in the company’s databases and used for future reference. Customer account information, product usage data, sales records and previously prepared research reports are examples of internal data. There are also previous advertising and marketing campaign records, departmental records and so on.

External data: External data including data from competitors, journals and magazines, industry surveys and market reports, is initially prepared by people outside the current company environment.

What are secondary market research sources?

Secondary research, like primary research, may draw on a variety of information sources. Some of the most common are listed below.

Secondary market research can benefit greatly from sales data. Every business collects data on daily operations, delivered orders, invoices and returned goods. This data is useful for marketers because it allows them to gain insights into sales by territory, customer type, average sales per salesperson, prices, discounts and other data.

Financial information can be used to estimate the efficiency of marketing operations. It includes the costs of manufacturing, storage, transportation and marketing. It can also provide insights into which products or services generate significant profits for you and which drive your business into the red.

Trade associations frequently publish free and paid reports to keep professionals up-to-date on economic developments. Specialized journals and media outlets publish news, research, press releases and professional articles on a regular basis, making them excellent sources of current secondary data.

Specialized research organizations collect commercial marketing research data and resell it to other businesses. These companies collect data on the consumer population, attitudes, trends and behaviors, as well as online and offline purchases. The results search engines are a good source of both free and commercially available data.

Competitor analysis. You can learn about competitors from a variety of sources, including their websites, review sites and media publications. This method allows you to gain a thorough understanding of how market participants and customers perceive a specific company.

Examples of primary and secondary market research

If you plan to launch an e-commerce platform or add a new product to an existing store, conducting market research may provide the necessary transparency into this business decision before proceeding. First and foremost, the market size for the business or product must be determined and you’ll also need a variety of data about statistics and trends in your industry, consumer behavior and current demand for your product.

Secondary market research methods, as well as digging into industry articles and searching for information from marketing companies about items people tend to buy online, can be used to discover information about the industry size, trends and growth rates. Market research reports will be another useful resource.

The next step is to understand your potential customers’ needs, as well as their socioeconomic and geographic circumstances. Primary research and customer surveys are the best ways to obtain this information. Begin by participating in specialized forums, Facebook groups or other social media channels. For example, if you are launching an online clothing store, you can use Google Forms, Google Surveys or TypeForm to conduct an online survey that targets specific customer segments. You can include questions about their age, location, income, favorite brands and stores where they typically shop for clothing. You can also use the form to see if any of the customers who were surveyed would be willing to participate in in-depth interviews.