The focus of descriptive research is to provide an accurate description for something that is occurring. For example, what age group is buying a particular brand; a product’s market share within a certain industry; how many competitors a company faces; etc. This type of research is by far the most popular form of market research. It is used extensively when the research purpose is to explain, monitor and test hypotheses, and can also be used to a lesser extent to help make predictions and for discovery.
Marketers routinely conduct basic descriptive research using informal means. For instance, the head of marketing for a clothing company may email a retailer to see how the products are selling. But informal descriptive research, while widely undertaken, often fails to meet the tests of research validity and reliability and, consequently, the information should not be used as an important component in marketing decisions. Rather, to be useful, descriptive research must be conducted in a way that adheres to a strict set of research requirements to capture relevant results. This often means that care must be taken to develop a structured research plan. Under most circumstances, this requires researchers have a good grasp of research methods including knowledge of data analysis.