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What is Marketing Research?

Margo Upson
Updated May 16, 2024
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Marketing research is the research that companies do to study consumers and other companies. It seeks to understand the best ways to connect a consumer and a product, with the hopes that the consumer will buy it. This involves evaluating the current marketing already being done for that product, or similar products that are created by the same company, and determining how well the campaigns are working. It also involves studying the marketing techniques of other companies.

In most cases, marketers begin research with a problem or a question, not with the goal of learning more about a particular market. Instead, they want to know why a particular market is doing well, or why it is falling and what can be done to change that. They may also want to know why consumers are not buying some products, but gladly purchasing similar ones. Research is then done to answer the question, and that answer can be turned into a marketing technique that may get better results.

There are two types of marketing research. The first is consumer research, where the goal is to study the purchasing habits of consumers. This can be done by tallying up how much of a product is sold, through surveys or through other means. The information gathered from consumers can be used to analyze current marketing campaigns and to create new ones.

The second type is business to business (B2B) research, which studies how businesses sell products and services to other businesses. For example, Company A sells computer equipment to companies B and C. Someone may be interested in seeing how companies B and C found out about the equipment, how company A marketed its product and how good the market for that product is.

Marketing research is not the same as market research. The first studies how and why consumers and businesses buy, and how those sales can be increased or why they have decreased. It involves in-depth studies into the affect of advertisements and market conditions on consumers. Market research is the research that may be done into a single market, focusing on the size and trends in that market.

As an example, Company A sells kids' cereal. It was once really popular, but now its sales have dropped almost 25% in the past year, and it wants to know why. Marketing research is done to answer this question.

Research reveals that Company B's kids' cereal has seen a substantial jump in sales. The two companies sell a similar product. More research reveals that Company B has added some vitamins to its product, changed the look of the cereal box, and is running advertisements to promote this new "healthier" product. In fact, lots of food companies are developing healthier versions of their products, and they are all selling well. Even non-food products, such as sports equipment and books about healthy living, are seeing an increase in sales.

Based on the results of this research, Company A decides to create a healthier version of its cereal, making it better than, or at least comparable to, Company B's brand. This new cereal is promoted, free samples are given away, and within a few months, sales are better than they were before the drop. Although this is simplified, this example shows what this form of research is and how it works.

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Margo Upson
By Margo Upson
With a vast academic background that has ranged from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education, Margo Upson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role as a SmartCapitalMind writer. Her wide-ranging interests and skill at diving into new topics make her articles informative, engaging, and valuable to readers seeking to expand their knowledge.
Discussion Comments
By eidetic — On Sep 05, 2012

@indemnifyme - That makes sense. After all, just because a product is successful, you don't know which part of your marketing made it that way. Doing marketing research can show a company exactly what part of their marketing is doing the most good.

This is probably advantageous to a company not just for their information, but so they can cut ad campaigns that aren't working. If they're running two or three different kinds of campaigns for one product, and one of those campaigns isn't doing any good, they can save money by cutting that campaign!

By indemnifyme — On Sep 04, 2012

It sounds like businesses do marketing research both when products are doing well, and when they're failing. I think that marketing research strategy makes a lot of sense. You need to know why your products are succeeding (if they are) so you can keep doing what you're doing, instead of waiting for them to fail and then finding out what went wrong!

By SZapper — On Sep 04, 2012

@betterment - I think you're probably right. Companies probably do market research into specific markets so they can see where to focus their advertising efforts. Then after that, I bet they do marketing research to see if their advertising efforts are working, and what else they can do to improve.

I really liked the example given in the article about the marketing research report on the cereal. Sometimes, a few small details can be the difference between a product being really popular and being a complete dud! But if companies don't do research, they'll never know.

By betterment — On Sep 03, 2012

I had no idea marketing research and market research were two different things! It seems like just adding an "ing" onto the end of the word makes a big difference. I imagine most companies do both marketing research and market research in order to sell their products and make the most profit.

By anon228529 — On Nov 09, 2011

Marketing research studies how and why consumers and businesses buy, and how those sales can be increased or why they have decreased.

By Sunny27 — On Oct 20, 2010

GreenWeaver-There are many marketing research firms that perform qualitative marketing research through the use of focus groups like this and marketing research questionnaires.

These questionnaires are also referred to as marketing research surveys. I think that focus groups are more insightful, but surveys allow you to sample a larger group of people for a lot less money.

Sometimes marketing research methodology often involve double blind studies in which two sets of groups are given a product that is not labeled. It is called a double blind study because both parties do not know which product is what. This usually is done for product tasting research.

By GreenWeaver — On Oct 20, 2010

Oasis11- I participated in a business marketing research study in a focus group. It was really fun.

The market research agency was Ask Miami in Coral Gables. They called me with some screening questions and I passed, and got on the panel. There were about eight other people and we were asked about our preferences regarding a particular retailer and some the products that it sold.

It was an effort to improve the customer service along with the product assortment.I have seen improvements since the study.

By oasis11 — On Jul 10, 2010

Great article- I want to add that market research often includes focus groups. Focus groups are selected to offer specific information regarding a product or service.

Competitive insight is also gain as the participants are asked questions about various competing products and services.

Usually a focus group prequalifies the participants for the specific study and then chooses about 8-10 that fit the marketer's criteria.

The sessions general last one to two hours and the participants are compensated for their time.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson
With a vast academic background that has ranged from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education,...
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