When to use Primary and Secondary Research

primary or secondary research

Market research can be split into two broad categories; primary research and secondary research. Secondary research simply involves collating and summarising existing research, while primary research consists of collecting data through original research.

When Is Secondary Research Effective?

The Internet has brought with it the option for marketers to easily access high quality research and data. Getting hold of this secondary research is also much less expensive than if the researcher had to carry out original research themselves.

Researchers may find that the exact answers they are looking for are available via secondary sources, eliminating the need and expense of carrying out their own primary research.

Secondary Research Is Useful When…

  • There is already an abundance of reliable and up-to-date research that can be accessed and applied to your specific project.
  • Feedback is required quickly. Secondary research can usually be carried out immediately and results compiled swiftly.
  • There is little or no budget to carry out original research. Secondary research is often free, or can be obtained for relatively small fee.
  • Primary research objectives need to be clarified. Initial secondary research can be used to set the stage for larger-scale primary research.

Secondary Research Is Not Suitable When…

  •  The project has unique needs or there is a shortage of accessible research that is specific to the researchers needs.
  • It is difficult to evaluate the reliability and validity of the information, and how it was gathered, analysed and presented.
  • The information was collected well in the past. Out-of-date information may offer little value, especially in fast-changing markets.
  • The goal of the research is to gain a competitive advantage. Secondary research is not undertaken exclusively for one company – it’s available to many. Consequently there is no information advantage to be gained.

When Is Primary Research Effective?

Carrying out primary research allows organisations to address issues and explore topics specific to their own situation.  Unlike secondary research, primary research also provides proprietary information which can potentially offer the company a competitive advantage.

Primary research gives the researcher a high level of control over how the data is collected – allowing them to tailor the size of the project, location of research and the demographics of participants to the organisation’s specific requirements.

It also allows the researcher to choose the best research methodology for their specific project; whether this is surveys, focus groups, field interviews, observation, experimental field tests, or a combination of several methodologies.

Our ‘When to use’ series assesses the different research methodologies and gives an overview of which methodology is best for different research scenarios.

Also our Trend Report Library is an excellent secondary research resource for the KBB and improvement industries.

 

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