Senior citizen buying flowers

Marketing research involves:

  • conducting research to support marketing activities, and
  • the statistical interpretation of data.

This information is then used by managers to

  • plan marketing activities,
  • gauge the nature of a firm’s marketing environment and
  • obtain information from suppliers.

There is an important distinction between marketing research and market research. Market research pertains to research in a given market vs. marketing research, which is about all research conducted within marketing.

Marketing research comprises:

  1. Primary research (aka field research), which involves the marketing researcher conducting or commissioning original research for a specific purpose.
  2. Secondary research (also referred to as desk research), relies on industry data that has already been compiled by another person or organisation (such as a government department, industry body or trade association) – the information obtained is usually less specific than primary research, because it is not designed for one particular business context and objective.

Typical marketing research methods are:

  1. qualitative research, and
  2. quantitative research.

Each has its advantages in terms of time, depth of information and cost. See the Wikipedia article on Marketing: Types of Research.

The goal of marketing research is to provide management with actionable, relevant, accurate, reliable, valid, and current information. Marketing research process spans various stages including:

  • problem definition,
  • research plan development,
  • data collection and interpretation,
  • data analysis and interpretation, and
  • information dissemination. (i.e., a report)

Savvy marketers also observe and document the impact of marketing activities as the marketing plan is implemented, resulting in additional customer data (or feedback). This feedback is valuable (as it is often costly to obtain, and provides critical insights that could affect the financial success of the product or service). Marketers use customer feedback to tweak, modify and improve their marketing efforts. Many products have experienced failure in the marketplace, because customer feedback was not available nor acted upon. Examples include:

  • The automobile Chevy Nova (which translated to “no go” in Spanish-speaking countries);
  • The Glad wrap (the Man from Glad descending from the heavens wearing all white (i.e., white is the colour of mourning in China – it is associated with death and impurity and is used in funerals in Chinese culture).
  • A recent example of Glad not properly researching its Glad Wrap customer base, occurred in Australia – when it changed the location of the metal cutter from the base of the box to inside the lid. It caused major outrage among its customers, and many took to social media to organize a boycott of the product.


The purpose of this learning pathway is to help you understand the importance of marketing research, and why researching customer needs and preferences is so essential to marketing success. You will learn to:

  • Define marketing research and explain its role in marketing.
  • Explain the differences between qualitative and quantitative research.
  • Describe the processes and techniques of marketing research.
  • Describe the use of information systems to gather marketing research and market intelligence.