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Market Research Industry Overview

By John Williams, writer
Sep 12, 2010
Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
> Marketing

The business of studying business: market research industry overview

From its inception in political and social science polling in the early 20th century, the market research industry has grown to over $10 billion worldwide, currently experiencing an average 5% annual growth rate. Nearly a quarter of a million marketing jobs in the US alone revolve around the acquisition and use of market research data. Privacy issues such as “do not call” lists and the spread of cell phone usage and the Internet has led to the ascendancy of online data collection. Furthermore, the industry has not been immune to merger and acquisition activity affecting other service sectors.

You can dissect market research analysis in myriad ways, such as research categories that include customer satisfaction, advertising effectiveness, product development, price elasticity, or developing a market forecast; by population, with consumer research versus business to business market research; or by industry. However you slice the industry, you can break marketing and research companies into three categories:

1. Market research associations that promote the industry

2. Market research suppliers of syndicated or secondary research

3. Market research firms providing custom or primary research

Cover the ground rules with market research associations

While no government policy regulates the market research industry directly, legislation such as "do not call" lists and the exemption of cell phone numbers from phone directories do impact its execution, specifically, how effectively a market research company can collect data. Market research associations keep its constituents and the public informed about trends generated by and affecting the industry, and serve as liaison between the public policy makers and private enterprise.

Access market information quickly and economically with syndicated reports

Secondary research makes up roughly one-third of the multi-billion dollar pie. A market research analyst compiles data and writes a report for general publication. Use these reports to ease your progress over a learning curve about industry trends and issues, market demographics or basic competitive intelligence.

Dive deep with primary market research surveys

While secondary research gives you quick access to inexpensive intelligence, you typically won't get in-depth information or specific answers. Primary research enables you to discover specific information tailored to your organization's needs. Plus, by definition, it's your own information undisclosed to anyone else, to help uncover and exploit hidden opportunities in the market or weak spots in your competition.
  • If you're new to market research, look up the associations' websites first to get a helpful impression of the industry's scope and capabilities before moving ahead with a market research plan.
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