Types of Marketing Research Tools: Primary & Secondary Research

marketing research tools

marketing research tools

Market research can be primary research or secondary research. The two are characteristically differentiated by the research focus and the marketing research tools used in the study.

Primary research is a new study that involves collecting information from the original source. Secondary research, on the other hand, involves gathering information about the study of existing research.

The difference between the two types of research defines the different marketing research tools used to carry each. 

The discussion about the two types of the market research will illustrate the differences between them and differentiate the tools used when applying qualitative and quantitative research for each.

Tools used in Primary Marketing Research

The tools used by primary research focus on acquiring information from the original source for the first time. The following are the main tools;

1. Questionnaires


One of the most common tools used is questionnaires as applied in carrying out a primary survey.

According to Bradley (2010), questionnaires are tools containing prompts and questions specifically designed to gather information from a respondent when filled out.

Questionnaires for primary research focus on the collection of data and not on analyzing data (Neelankavil, 2015).

However, the data collected by questionnaires are important for secondary research because it provides the information to be analyzed if the primary research does not give such an analysis.

2. Interviewing

Another important tool for primary research is that of interviewing; this is the process of directly asking questions or prompts to a respondent with the purpose of gathering information from the responses.

According to Bradley (2010), interviewing involves the interaction between the researcher and the respondent in a process that involves collecting both quantitative and qualitative data.

Some aspects of the response that cannot be captured quantitatively are collected through the elements of human interaction by the researcher (Kotler & Armstrong, 2007).

In the primary research, interviews allow for clarification and further information related to the respondent. However, this method cannot be used for secondary research unless when the researcher interviews the primary researcher to report on his or her research.

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3. Observation

Observation is another tool primary researchers use to collect qualitative and quantitative data about a subject. According to Bradley (2010), observation gives the researcher the actual experience of the phenomenon being researched in its natural setting or original form.

While observation only serves the collection of data in primary research, the method can also be applied by secondary research to observe the process of primary research.

4. Surveys

online surveys

Surveys form the other significant tool used in primary research and distinctively differentiate it from secondary research.

According to Neelankavil (2015), surveys involve using a sample from a whole population and studying the characteristics of the population of the selected representative sample.

Tools used in Secondary Marketing Research

On the other hand, secondary research uses different tools that cannot be applied to primary research.

1. Statistical Analysis

One of the main tools is statistical analysis. According to Bradley (2010), this involves analyzing the data collected or presented by other researchers.

Statistical data analysis involves using certain techniques that seek to compare, classify, calculate, and simplify the data being analyzed.

The final result of the statistical analysis is the formulation of conclusions based on the study’s objectives. According to Bradley (2010), statistical analysis is used to understand the information drawn from the data and relate it to the purpose and objectives of the study or the variables being studied.

This method is applicable in the process of quantitative research as it involves statistical data.

2. Informational Research

sources of information

The other major tool and technique used in the secondary study is informational research.

Informational research involves collecting data and information from secondary materials such as print and electronically published reports.

Some of the main sources of informational research are print materials like journals, magazines, newsprints, and books, and electronic content (Kotler & Armstrong, 2007).

While these sources are helpful, their reliability depends on the validity of their content and the relevance of their reports to the time and variables under study.

Therefore, secondary researchers have to verify the authenticity of the secondary data for effective secondary research. This makes informational research a possibly subjective approach among other marketing research tools.

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Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches

In both primary and secondary research, qualitative and quantitative approaches are applicable in data collection and analysis. Qualitative approaches focus on opinions, feelings, and qualitative features of the source of information. 

The tools used for this approach include observation, interviewing, and quality tests during experimentations (Kotler & Armstrong, 2007).

On the other hand, quantitative research involves scientific methods of measuring, analyzing, and drawing a conclusion from data. The approach uses a hypothesis that the researcher seeks to prove or disapprove.

Quantitative research involves tools like questionnaires, surveys, observation, experimentation and tests, statistical analysis, and informational research.

To conduct effective and successful market research, a researcher needs to comprehensively understand the difference between primary and secondary research and the tools applied.

The researcher will effectively apply the appropriate tool and methodology in the market research exercise through such an understanding.

This is because the differences between primary and secondary research determine each research’s quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Moreover, the understanding of the differences helps the researcher to apply the right types of marketing research tools for either. Such an understanding will inform the choice between the quantitative or the qualitative approach as determined by the primary or secondary research.

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Bradley, N. (2010). Marketing Research. Tools and Techniques.Oxford: Oxford University Press

Kotler, P., & Armstrong, G. (2007). Principles of Marketing. Prentice Hall, New Jersey: Pearson Neelankavil, J.P. (2015). International Business Research. London: Routledge