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What is primary research?
Put simply, primary research is any type of research you collect yourself or commission on your behalf. This could be anything from surveys and interviews to observations and ethnographic research (studying participants in their real-life environment).
Most researchers will use primary research to supplement data from secondary sources, such as journals, magazines, website articles, and books. By using primary research methods alongside secondary research, researchers can validate and support their findings with additional, new data.
You don’t have to be an expert to conduct primary research or collect data from it — chances are you’ve done some of it already. Think back to when you may have been asked to carry out a project at school. If you did the research (or asked mom or dad), e.g. interviewing experts, and using data from journals, you’ve collected and used both primary and secondary data.
That example might be a little simplistic, but the concept still applies. There are, of course, plenty of methods to choose from, so understanding what they are and how they work will help you execute research campaigns.
What are the types of primary research methods?
There are lots of different ways to carry out primary research, more notable methods are interviews and surveys — but what about observations, analyses, and focus groups?
We’re all familiar with interviews. This research method usually involves one-on-one or small group sessions, conducted over the phone or in a face-to-face environment. Interviews are great for collecting large amounts of data from a small sample of subjects, or when specific information needs to be extracted from experts.
For example, for a piece on developing more sustainable energy sources, a journalist would choose to interview a subject matter expert to extract the primary research they need. Not only is the information more authoritative and accurate, but it’s also more compelling.
Be aware though, direct interaction can alter people’s opinions. For interviews and focus groups, it’s best to get an expert to manage and read the room to avoid skewing results.
Another industry staple. Though much more rigid compared to interviews (with predefined questions and themes), surveys are a great way to reach a target market and collect relevant data at scale. Surveys will typically provide a limited amount of information from a large group of people (as there are only so many questions you can ask before respondents get bored).
To get the most value out of surveys, it’s worth defining your audience and questions well in advance. Try to think of key themes that you want to explore and what you want to get out of the data collected.
For example, a supermarket might send out a survey to their customers on customer satisfaction, asking questions about the overall in-store experience, the online experience, what customers would like to see, and more. Because it’s issued at scale, the supermarket can get a good understanding of what their larger customer base thinks.
While it might be the most arduous form of field research, observation is arguably the most impartial as there’s no interaction between the researcher and the subject. As such, this approach removes or reduces bias that could be encountered during an interview or survey, as the subject’s actions are not influenced by other factors.
For instance, a sports car manufacturer might want to see how their vehicles are used in real-world scenarios and if there are any limitations on the customer. This could be a case of visiting a race track or car showroom to see how customers use the vehicles.
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This method is great for gathering data on particular topic areas. Sitting between interviews and surveys, focus groups allow you to engage a small group of people, e.g. subject matter experts.
More informal than interviews but more professional than surveys, they’re a great way to gain insight and valuable information on customers, pain points, and other areas of interest in your industry.
For example, a technology manufacturer might put together a focus group to discuss technology adoption amongst 24-36-year-olds ahead of a new product launch. Through this focus group, they can learn more about how 24-36-year-olds purchase and engage with new tech solutions.
While the process of gathering data is relatively straightforward, making sense of it (and having the right skills to turn it into insight) can be tough.
This is precisely why so many brands and businesses turn to research services. According to our data, 97% of market research is outsourced. This allows brands and businesses to gain access to relevant information for truly original research.
Though a more modern form (and approach) to primary research, research services enable brands and businesses to collect data and analyse it very quickly. But the main benefit? Expertise.
With research services you get a team of experts who know exactly what research questions to ask and how to turn survey responses into actionable insight. They know how to get the right respondents and the ideal sample sizes, as well as leverage primary research and secondary research data to build comprehensive, revealing reports.
The Benefits of Conducting Primary Market Research
If you were to say that primary research is less costly than secondary research, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.
Secondary research may very well be the cheaper option, often readily available online or through a database.
However, we believe that the benefits of primary market research strongly outweigh any of the costs associated with it.
Benefit #1: Data ownership
Access to secondary market research data may be limited. With primary research, however, you and your company have complete ownership of the data that you collect.
Ownership of research data is important.
With an initial round of primary research under your belt, you and your company have the ability to look back and compare future waves of data to see how your company fared previously.
The most important benchmark in market research is you! With data ownership, you can see how you and your company have done within a certain time frame.
Benefit #2: Relevancy
You’ve searched tirelessly for information on your target audience, and you’ve finally come across a data set from a relevant study!
There’s just one problem. The study was conducted five years ago.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that in this day and age the world is constantly changing.
Consumer attitudes and market trends change regularly, and data from a study conducted last year may not apply to today’s market conditions.
With primary research conducted now, you can guarantee data that is timely and relevant.
Benefit #3: Targeted approach
When conducting a primary market research study, you have complete control over how it is carried out. You can tailor the entire study to fit the needs of your company.
Oftentimes, when searching for secondary research data,
you may have a hard time finding information that aligns with your company, goals and objectives,
and preferred target audience.
When you can execute a fully custom research study,
you get to set the objectives, choose the methodology used, and choose the audience that you sample.
At the end of the study, you have data relative to your specific,
targeted audience rather than the mass market to which most secondary research applies.