Data Collection: Low-Cost Secondary Research Tutorial

In the Marketing Research Tutorial, we discussed how marketers follow two main paths for gathering information. The first path, called primary research, involves data collection projects developed by the marketing researcher, such as using surveys, focus groups, experiments, and observation (for more see the Primary Research Tutorial). While primary research is widely used to address many marketing questions, it is not the leading type of research used by marketers. That distinction belongs to the other research path – secondary research.

With secondary research the marketer taps into previously collected information in order to address their research requirements. Marketers are attracted to secondary research due to the time savings and potential cost savings in acquiring information. Yet while secondary information holds numerous benefits and may help address many marketing questions, finding the right information often proves difficult. This is especially the case when marketing professionals, academics, and students seek product or market metrics, such as finding market share figures, product sales growth rates, industry sales margins, etc.

In the next two parts of our highly detailed Principles of Marketing Tutorials we present several alternatives for locating good secondary research information. While secondary research can include finding information that an organization itself had previously collected (i.e., internal secondary research), our focus here is on information collected by outside sources (i.e., external secondary research).

We classify the hunt for secondary data into two categories:

  • Low-Cost Secondary Research (discussed in this tutorial)
  • High-Cost Secondary Research (discussed in the next tutorial)

Before discussing sources for locating secondary research, we look more closely at the basics of secondary research, including the advantages and disadvantages this data offers to the marketer.