Rachel Content Marketer at CleverX with a massive thing for people, conversations, and marketplaces.

Secondary Data in Market Research

6 min read

Secondary research is also an important tool to have in your arsenal. It is a means to collect information from existing sources. Secondary data is information that has already been collected by someone else through various research methods such as questionnaires, interviews, or surveys. Often it’s just a matter of going through it and extracting what you need for your project. If you have worked in market research before, then you’ll know that running a survey yourself can be a huge hassle—especially if you want to run several iterations quickly. If it takes you two months to create, run and analyze each survey you conduct, then conducting a dozen will take up your entire year!

Secondary data in market research

Secondary research replaces a primary research effort and reduces the time and resources required to collect and analyze information, improve usability, and speed of delivery. Going through a secondary research project can be like a treasure hunt — you may not always find what you’re looking for, but along the way, you’ll certainly find some great and interesting stuff. It is an essential and non-negotiable part of any research project that aims at providing new knowledge on a specific problem. 

There are many reasons why companies carry out secondary research. With a growing shortage of time and a surplus of information, businesses can save valuable time by using indirect or even direct data that is relevant to their work, saving man-hours which are then redirected towards higher profit activities. Secondary research also provides an independent opinion when it comes to consulting others about your market, your competitors, and consumer trends.

How can you get the information you need if there isn’t enough of it? This is a question every market researcher needs to ask themselves every time they begin creating their analysis report. They must weigh the costs and benefits of secondary research and primary research in order to create a thorough product, either written or unwritten.

If you’re working on a project where the findings need to be based on previous research, then secondary research is what you need. Below are five types of secondary research that can help you uncover all the information you need.

Types of secondary research

As a widely used tool in every self-respecting researcher’s armory, secondary research may involve both online and offline work. Both have their significance to the study. Online data is collected on the internet paid or unpaid. Numerous sources of research can be found which also increases the possibility of many fake sites as well so make sure you consult bona fide sites. It can be recognized as a virtual aggregation of all secondary data outcomes. Offline data is obtained from the library, historical properties, personal contacts, and such organizations that are present in physical form i.e., non-virtual reality.

  • Online data

From books, journals, and articles, to government documents,  websites, and other sources, there is a lot of secondary data available online. While the internet is a convenient place, there is also the danger of misinformation that one needs to beware of. Before you, consult information online make sure you have verified the following:

  1. Does your source have the necessary qualifications and credentials to offer information on the subject?
  2. How do they offer information to internet users and ensure data security?
  3. How do they charge for their services?
  4. Is their information aligned with what you’re looking for?
  5. Are they transparent with their communication?
  • Libraries

Although libraries are not as popular as they once were in the past few years, they are still valid learning and development facilities that can help your market research. These collections can be books, manuscripts, archives, databases, maps, or other records that are the results of the work of research and investigation carried out by researchers. In this light, libraries do have enormous untapped potential for market and survey researchers.

  • Data from government or non-government agencies

Government sources of secondary data are the most important for your market research – they are the least expensive and almost exhaustive resources to tap into. Non-government sources are also very useful for marketing research purposes – they can be an excellent secondary resource- including press releases, articles, business and news magazines, and more. household name companies such as Euromonitor, Mintel, or the US Census Bureau. It may be in a format which is easy to manipulate or it may be already drilled down to the level you need for immediate use. For example, you could have population trends from the US Census Bureau broken down into age groups from 0 to 19 years old, but the data might also be available further broken down into ages 0 to 4, 5 to 9, 10 to 14, and more detailed age categories for up to four-year increments.

  • Data from institutions of learning

Already available academic sources of data might be invaluable and can save you thousands of dollars in agency fees. You may find them in the form of books, journals, newspapers, magazines, and web resources. Academic institutions have always remained a formidable force in the market research industry. Academics didn’t invent secondary research but the brick-and-mortar institutions were the first ones to monetize it and made it a pillar of market intelligence. What’s more, each institution may occupy several niches that may be directly or indirectly related to market research studies. But before you go knocking on school doors, make sure the institution is a verified expert in the matter.  

  • Sources of commercial information

Private agencies, expert networks, market research firms, and business consultants are also credible, accurate, and authentic sources of secondary data. The advantage is that they are readily available and up to date. From real-world insights to a country’s economic trends and information on the political climate, these sources are evolving into products that businesses can subscribe to by the year, or pay for by the minute, and on-demand projects. It is convenient, economic, and efficient.

Designing secondary research

In an increasingly dynamic world, where decisions need to be made quickly, secondary research comes to the rescue. The main task of the researcher is to design a layout following the existing data and then outline the direction of their research clearly. Here are a few ways in which you can approach your problem statement more efficiently

  1. Evaluative research

Evaluative research is one of the two types of research studies, sometimes referred to as marketing research. The other type of study is known as exploratory research. Both registers help the organization to get insights and information on the market, customers, and their behavior. Evaluative research in particular focuses on identifying a specific problem area and then evaluating it in terms of the wants or desires of the people facing that problem in that particular region. Introducing products keeping in mind customer preferences is an example. There are two types of evaluative research:

a. Summative research

It emphasizes the after-effects of any research process of a particular product. Summative research may aim to assess:

  • Outcomes – Whether the desired outcome is achieved or not.
  • Impact – Be it positive, negative, or unremarkable.
  • Secondary Analysis – critical analysis of preexisting data.
  • Meta-Analysis – Which is the analysis of analyses or synthesis of other analyzed published data where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Economic feasibility – If the outcome is viable to implement at scale in terms of costs and profits.

b. Formative research

This technique is used to make the person or article which is to be tested; to improve it in any way. Formative research seeks to assess:

  • The need of why such a product is required can be evaluated
  • The capacity to use the insights that can further be investigated upon.
  • To monitor the adaptation or implementation of any product.
  1.   Exploratory research 

This kind of research mainly focuses upon topics on which less or no information is available. It facilitates the development of fresh ideas and innovative solutions that can replace existing ones. Exploratory research is a type of market research that helps the research team interpret data and identify markets. Many times, companies conduct exploratory studies in areas where they don’t have many experiences such as new product launches or new target markets. Some important aspects of this type of research are:

  • It is flexible research without any limitations and addresses all aspects of the specific area.
  • Provides a platform for further researches and clarifies existing theories.
  • A useful approach for gaining useful information related to any topic.
  1.   Generative research

Generative research is an approach to market research that seeks to predict and influence the future through an analysis of emerging trends and patterns. Also known as predictive research, it involves filtering the useful insights from the researches that have been conducted and applying those concepts in solving problems. These solutions are generally derived from the researches that have been conducted. For a successful application, a researcher must be aware of the customer’s needs or wants and then proceed forward. Some results of generative research may be to:

  • Gauge past and current trends.
  • Anticipate a pattern in the future.
  • Find alternative solutions to traditional ones.

Mistakes to avoid during secondary research

  • Selection errors

A selection error is a kind of sampling error that occurs because of an inherent bias on the part of the researcher.  This may occur when the data selected for analysis is inaccurate or inadequate. All market research can be vulnerable to some degree to selection errors. Here’s where strategic measures to minimize impact and other ways to account for it.

  • Errors that can invalidate data

In this age of increasing data, there is a greater tendency towards data manipulation. The accuracy and the validity of the obtained data need to be checked. In the case of secondary data, it might be contaminated due to some inappropriate or negligent actions of a crucial mass of leadership or the organization handling it.

Broadly such errors may be caused by: 

  1. data alteration,
  2. the ambiguity of concerned stakeholders, and 
  3. conceptual errors.
  • Data reformulation errors 

Secondary data is not always directly beneficial to the analyst because it does not appropriately measure the subject under consideration. Errors are frequently the outcome of one of the four conditions listed below:   

Circumstantial change

Such a type of error occurs due to sudden changes in conditions that somehow cast a significant effect upon the outcome of the research. It can be as big as a geographical change or as meager as the unit of measurement change. And there are at least two ways of altering the particulars.

Due to inappropriate transformations

Original data is frequently offered in secondary data sources in categories established to make the data more presentable in a tabular style, or the original categories do not represent the demands of the analyst to manage the work at hand.

Errors due to misrepresentation

No matter the whole research process that was being carried out was done perfectly but a glitch as small as a misplaced decimal or any grammatical error can manipulate the whole meaning or miscommunicate any information.

Errors due to collection procedures to

The collection methods in which the researcher might have collected data may not be the best suited in those conditions.

Summing up

Market research is a time-consuming process as it involves research related to a certain market, niche, or even a product. Since there may be a multitude of competitors in the market, the competitiveness varies from one industry to another. As you go about with research, the collection of data may be too much to handle. Secondary data sources help you find information that you need without having to reinvent the wheel.

Rachel Content Marketer at CleverX with a massive thing for people, conversations, and marketplaces.