While secondary research is often valuable, it also has drawbacks that include:
Quality of Researcher
As we will discuss, research conducted using primary methods are largely controlled by the marketer. However, this is not the case when it comes to data collected by others. Consequently, the quality of secondary research should be scrutinized closely since the origins of the information may be questionable. Organizations relying on secondary data as an important component in their decision-making (e.g., market research studies) must take extra steps to evaluate the validity and reliability of the information by critically evaluating how the information was gathered, analyzed and presented.
Not Specific to Researcher’s Needs
Secondary data is often not presented in a form that exactly meets the marketer’s needs. For example, a marketer obtains an expensive research report that looks at how different age groups feel about certain products within the marketer’s industry. Unfortunately, the marketer may be disappointed to discover that the way the research divides age groups (e.g., under 13, 14-18, 19-25, etc.) does not match how the marketer’s company designates its age groups (e.g., under 16, 17-21, 22-30, etc). Because of this difference the results may not be useful.
Inefficient Spending for Information
Since the research received may not be specific to the marketer’s needs, an argument can be made that research spending is inefficient. That is, the marketer may not receive a satisfactory amount of information for what is spent.
Many times a researcher finds that research that appears promising is in fact a “teaser” released by the research supplier. This often occurs when a small portion of a study is disclosed, often for free, but the full report, which is often expensive, is needed to gain the full value of the study.
Caution must be exercised in relying on secondary data that may have been collected well in the past. Out-of-date information may offer little value especially for companies competing in fast changing markets.
Not Proprietary Information
In most cases secondary research is not undertaken specifically for one company. Instead it is made available to many either for free or for a fee. Consequently, there is rarely an “information advantage” gained by those who obtain the research.