Everything you need to know about the types of marketing research. Marketing research is generally undertaken on a regular, continuous basis.

This is quite natural because in a dynamic world the situation undergoes rapid changes. It is difficult for a business to survive if it is not well-informed of these changes.

There are two main sources of data- primary and secondary. Primary research is conducted from scratch. It is original and collected to solve the problem in hand. Secondary research already exists since it has been collected for other purposes.

The types of marketing research can be studied under the following heads:- 1. Primary Research 2. Secondary Research 3. Exploratory Research 4. Descriptive Research 5. Casual Research 6. Predictive Research 7. Conclusive Research


8. Product Research 9. User Market Research 10. Sales Operations and Distribution Research 11. Communications Research 12. Special Project 13. Economic and Business Research.

Types of Marketing Research: Primary Research, Secondary Research, Exploratory Research, Descriptive Research and a Few Others

Types of Marketing Research – Primary Research and Secondary Research

There are two main sources of data-primary and secondary. Primary research is conducted from scratch. It is original and collected to solve the problem in hand. Secondary research already exists since it has been collected for other purposes.

It is conducted on data published previously and usually by someone else. Secondary research costs far less than primary research, but seldom comes in a form that exactly meets the needs of the researcher.

Marketing research can be classified as exploratory research, conclusive research, and performance-monitoring research. The stage in the decision-making process for which the information is needed determines the type of research required.


Exploratory research is appropriate for the early stages of the decision-making process. This research is usually designed to provide a preliminary investigation of the situation with a minimum expenditure of cost and time.

A variety of approaches to this research are used, including use of secondary data sources, observation, interviews with experts, and case histories. Exploratory research provides insights into and comprehension of an issue or situation. It should draw definitive conclusions only with extreme caution.

Exploratory research is conducted to explore a problem to get some basic idea about the solution at the preliminary stages of research. It may serve as the input to conclusive research. Exploratory research information is collected by focus group interviews, reviewing literature or books, discussing with experts, etc.

This is unstructured and qualitative in nature. If a secondary source of data is unable to serve the purpose, a convenience sample of small size can be collected. Exploratory research is also conducted to simplify the findings of the conclusive or descriptive research, if the findings are very hard to interpret for the marketing managers.


Conclusive research provides information that helps the manager evaluate and select a course of action. This involves clearly defined research objectives and information needs. Some approaches to this research include surveys, experiments, observations, and simulation.

Conclusive research can be sub classified into descriptive research and causal research. Conclusive research draws conclusions- The results of the study can be generalized to the whole population.

Conclusive research is conducted to draw some conclusion about the problem. It is essentially, structured and quantitative research, and the output of this research is the input to Management Information Systems (MIS).

Descriptive research, as its name suggests, is designed to describe something, For example- the characteristics of consumers of a certain product; the degree to which the use of a product varies with age, income, or sex; or the number of people who saw a specific TV commercial. A majority of Marketing Research studies are of this type.


Causal research is designed to gather evidence regarding the cause-and-effect relationships that exist in the marketing system. For example- if a company reduces the price of a product and then unit sales of the product increase, causal research would show whether this effect was due to the price reduction or some other reason.

Causal research must be designed in such a way that the evidence regarding causality is clear. The main sources of data for causal research are interrogating respondents through surveys and conducting experiments.

Performance-monitoring research provides information regarding the status of the marketing system; it signals the presence of potential problems or opportunities. This is an essential element in the control of a business’s marketing programs. The data sources for performance-monitoring research include interrogation of respondents, secondary data, and observation.

Marketing research is often partitioned into two sets of categorical pairs, either by target market:


i. Consumer marketing research, and

ii. Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing research

Consumer marketing research is a form of applied sociology that concentrates on understanding the preferences, attitudes, and behaviors of consumers in a market-based economy, and it aims to understand the effects and comparative success of marketing campaigns.

The field of consumer marketing research as a statistical science was pioneered by Arthur Nielsen with the founding of the AC Nielsen Company in 1923.


Thus, marketing research may also be described as the systematic and objective identification, collection, analysis, and dissemination of information for the purpose of assisting management in decision making related to the identification and solution of problems and opportunities in marketing.

The goal of marketing research is to identify and assess how changing elements of the marketing mix impacts customer behavior.

Or, alternatively, by methodological approach (based on question)-

Qualitative Marketing Research:


Generally used for exploratory purposes – small number of respondents – not generalizable to the whole population – statistical significance and confidence not calculated – examples include focus groups, in-depth interviews, and projective techniques.

Qualitative research provides an understanding of how or why things are as they are. For example- a Market Researcher may stop a consumer who has purchased a particular type of bread and ask him or her why that type of bread was chosen.

Unlike quantitative research there are no fixed set of questions but, instead, a topic guide (or discussion guide) is used to explore various issues in-depth. The discussion between the interviewer (or moderator) and the respondent is largely determined by the respondents’ own thoughts and feelings.

As with quantitative techniques, there are also various types of qualitative methodologies. Research of this sort is mostly done face-to-face. One of the best-known techniques is market research group discussions (or focus groups). These are usually made up of 6 to 8 targeted respondents, a research moderator whose role is to ask the required questions, draw out answers, and encourage discussion, and an observation area usually behind one way mirrors, and video and/or audio taping facilities.

In addition, qualitative research can also be conducted on a ‘one-on-one’ basis, i.e., an in-depth interview with a trained executive interviewer and one respondent, a paired depth (two respondents), a triad (three respondents) and a mini group discussion (4-5 respondents).

Information, industry experts, and secondary data may not be sufficient to define the research problem. Sometimes qualitative research must be undertaken to gain a qualitative understanding of the problem and its underlying factors.


Qualitative research is unstructured, exploratory in nature, based on small samples, and may utilize popular qualitative techniques such as focus groups (group interviews), word association (asking respondents to indicate their first responses to stimulus words), and depth interviews (one-on-one interviews which probe the respondents’ thoughts in detail).

Other exploratory research techniques, such as pilot surveys with small samples of respondents, may also be undertaken and Quantitative marketing research – generally used to draw conclusions – tests a specific hypothesis – uses random sampling techniques so as to infer from the sample to the population – involves a large number of respondents – examples include surveys and questionnaires.

Techniques include choice modeling, maximum difference preference scaling, and covariance analysis. Quantitative research is numerically oriented, requires significant attention to the measurement of market phenomena and often involves statistical analysis.

For example- a bank might ask its customers to rate its overall service as either excellent, good, poor or very poor. This will provide quantitative information that can be analyzed statistically. The main rule with quantitative research is that every respondent is asked the same series of questions. The approach is very structured and normally involves large numbers of interviews/questionnaires.

Perhaps the most common quantitative technique is the ‘market research survey’. These are basically projects that involve the collection of data from multiple cases – such as consumers or a set of products.

Quantitative surveys can be conducted by using post (self-completion), face-to-face (in-street or in-home), telephone, email or web techniques. The questionnaire is one of the more common tools for collecting data from a survey, but it is only one of a wide ranging set of data collection aids.

Types of Marketing Research – 4 Major Types: Exploratory Research,Descriptive Research, Causal Research and Predictive Research

There may be different types of marketing research depending on the objectives that the research is designed to achieve and the sources of data which are to be used. Marketing research may also be either qualitative or quantitative depending on the form of data generated and the degree of mathematical accuracy to which it is subjected. The most widely used category of marketing research is based on the functional objective of investigation.

Type # 1. Exploratory Research:


Exploratory research gives valuable insight, generates ideas and hypotheses rather than measuring or testing them. According to Chisnall, “Exploratory research is concerned with identifying the real nature of research problems and perhaps of formulating relevant hypotheses for various tests.”

Crimp stated that the researcher undertakes exploratory research in order to generate an adequate basis for designing research and it includes searching for data that are already available both within the company and from external sources, consulting experts, conducting observational studies, getting feedback from market-place and surveys.

A marketing researcher uses this type of research when very little is known about the problem being examined. The major benefit is that it is less expensive and less time-consuming. For example, if a researcher is interested in finding out “Which features/factors are vital in a purchase decision?” and “What will be the best mode of communication to reach the consumers?” For all these purposes, exploratory research gives an insight into the problem.

Type # 2. Descriptive Research:

Descriptive research is concerned with measuring and estimating the frequencies with which things occur or the degree of correlation or association between various variables. It has been seen that market research reports are often descriptive and they measure market size, market structure, and the behaviour and attitudes of consumers in the market-place.

In general, as the data obtained by descriptive research is put to various statistical analysis, it is very necessary to make a list of the variables to be investigated and how these variables will be measured.

Type # 3. Causal Research:


Causal research is basically concerned with establishing cause- and-effect relationship and an attempt to explain why things happen. For example, to what extent the price elasticity of demand or the degree to which advertising campaigns have affected the sales may be explained by casual research.

However, there are two important aspects of causal research- (i) necessary condition, and (ii) sufficient condition, which should be kept in mind.

An event may be considered as the cause of another event, if its occurrence is necessary and sufficient condition for the latter event to take place. A necessary condition means that the caused events cannot occur in the absence of the causative event. A sufficient condition means that the causative event is all that is needed to bring about the caused event.

Type # 4. Predictive Research:

The main purpose of predictive research is to arrive at a forecast or prediction or some measurement to the researcher. The ultimate target may be the future sales level of the firm. Other goals of predictive research may involve in industry sales level, projection of growth or defining of firm’s product line and the use of a test market to predict the likely success of a new product.

Types of Marketing Research – 6 Main Types: Product Research, User Market, Sales Operations and Distribution Research, Communications Research and a Few Others

The main types of marketing research needed for management planning and control purposes are outlined as follow:

Type # 1. Product Research Takes in:

(i) The screening of new products;


(ii) Tests on the acceptability of new or improved products, own and competitors’, in terms of their inherent physical properties (flavour, smell, colour, size, design, quality), their performance in use (durability, convenience, speed of operation, trouble-free operation), or, their psychological attributes (product name, pres­tige, conferred status, exclusiveness, etc.);

(iii) Comparison tests of new or existing products versus competition on a blind (concealed identity) or open basis;

(iv) Packaging tests covering physical characteristics, design, visual appeal and impact, product identifi­cation, convenience in use, after-uses (ornamental or functional);

(v) Product line simplification studies to eliminate superfluous and uneconomic variations in styles, colours, sizes, qualities, etc;

(vi) Product range completeness studies to ensure that the com­pany is adequately represented, vis-a-vis competitive products, in all major product and user-market sectors;

(vii) After-sales service studies, particularly important for industrial products whose installation and running-in may take some months from the time that the actual sale has been completed.

Type # 2. User Market Research Includes:


(i) Assessment and analysis of size and trends of the market and its seasonality;

(ii) Assessment and analysis of market potentials in terms of existing and new products for existing or new markets;

(iii) Analysis of changes and trends within the market in relation to style, colour, taste, size, price, quality, convenience and other revealed preferences of dif­ferent types of users;

(iv) Analysis of user characteristics in terms of age, regional location, social class, sex, family composition, purchasing and usage habits, or any other relevant criteria, with particular regard to actual or anticipated shifts in market compo­sition;

(v) Analysis of user attitudes, opinions, motivations, expec­tations and desires so as to take competitive advantage of such knowledge in formulating product, sales and advertising policies;

(vi) Analysis of sales and share of market in terms of geographical location, demographic characteristics, type of distributive outlet, and type of user-industry, turnover size and price groups in order to determine strengths and weaknesses in market position.

Type # 3. Sales Operations and Distribution Research Covers:

(i) The effectiveness of the sales force as a whole and of individual sales­men in the performance of their selling tasks, e.g., organisation of calling sequence, number of calls made, number of orders taken, ratio of orders to calls, size and value of orders, time spent waiting for buyers, time spent face to face with buyers, effectiveness of sales presentation, use of visual selling aids, handling of com­plaints, display material placed, quality of reporting, time spent filling in reports for head office, expense control, etc.;

(ii) The estab­lishment or revision of sales territories, the analysis of territorial potential and variations in territorial results;

(iii) The analysis of channels of distribution in terms of their relative importance, par­ticularly changes in their effectiveness as outlets for the company’s products, and of the best method of servicing them;

(iv) The analysis of distribution costs by type of distributor in order to reveal and eliminate unprofitable products and services, customers, orders and sales territories;

(v) Trade or distributor attitude and opinion studies in connection with the image of the company and of its competitors, their products, pricing policies, selling methods, distribution policies, advertising and promo­tional policies, etc.;

(vi) Distribution and sales audits, i.e., the regu­lar physical counting and recording of the number of stockists of the product, distributors’ purchases, stocks and sales to customers over a specified period of time;

(vii) The analysis of company sales statistics by product type, trade customer classification, order size, sales territory, salesmen, etc;

(viii) The preparation of sales fore­casts by product, customers and territories and of sales quotas for individual salesmen;

(ix) The study of individual salesman’s and group compensation to determine the most effective combination of salary, commission, bonus payments and other special incen­tives;

(x) The study of trade incentive schemes (special bonuses, thirteen-to-the-dozen and other ‘free goods’ deals, wholesaler and/or retailer contests, etc.), to determine costs in relation to results achieved, preferred forms of incentive, and improved methods of operating trade incentive programmes.

Type # 4. Communications Research Includes:

(i) The testing of press, television, cinema, radio or poster advertisements before and/or after they have been seen, read or heard by the particular audience for whom they are intended;

(ii) Research on the effectiveness of public relations and company image-building campaigns;

(iii) The study of different media and combinations of media, in relation to their effectiveness and comparative cost in reaching defined audi­ences of potential customers for the company’s products;

(iv) The analysis of the effectiveness of sales communications—sales con­ferences, trade receptions, exhibitions, demonstrations, direct mail, catalogues, trade brochures, trade sampling, salesmen’s pre­sentation material and visual selling aids and trade advertising—in terms of number of enquiries received, orders placed and other measurable criteria.

Type # 5. Special Project Studies:

Many investigations, by their very nature, usually cannot be anticipated or planned for. It may be possible to assign such ad hoc projects, as and when they arise, to the executive or group of executives specialising in the particular field concerned. On the other hand, rather than interrupt the normal flow of research activity, it is sometimes more convenient to assign an individual executive or small task force to work on a special project.

The types of problems which are often best handled in this way include:

(i) Special measurement or quantification problems, e.g., measuring the sales or other results from a particular advertising campaign;

(ii) Research on the effectiveness of ad hoc trade and consumer promotions and special point-of- purchase displays in terms of distributor support, consumer interest, analysis of shop traffic, quantities of merchandise sold, impulse versus planned purchases, etc.;

(iii) Information handling and data processing problems, e.g., the introduction of computers into certain fields of marketing activity presents difficulties of integration and adapta­tion if their use is to be maximised;

(iv) Research into possible new developments in marketing ideas and techniques as a means of widening a company’s competitive differential advantage, e.g., new and more efficient methods of selling and advertising, new ways of organising the marketing functions within the firm, new methods of stock control;

(v) The study of opportunities for com­pany diversification into related fields from internal resources or through external acquisition or merger;

(vi) Research into ‘research’ and how it can be integrated more effectively into the planning process.

Type # 6. Economic and Business Research:

May, or may not, come under the jurisdiction of the marketing research manager, or indeed, of marketing management at all. It is still fairly common practice for general information or economic intelligence depart­ments to be responsible directly to top management or general management. The actual line of responsibility is not of critical importance provided that marketing management and marketing research personnel are kept fully informed and have direct access to the department concerned.

The greater part of the general information or economic intelli­gence department’s work in most companies is likely to be con­cerned with the gathering of economic and business information (mainly, though not exclusively, from ‘desk’ sources) of particular importance to marketing management. The integration of this source of information with the other sources at its command will be made easier by placing the department under the direct control of marketing management.

The kind of information provided includes:

(i) General eco­nomic trends and forecasts for the major sectors of the economy, both short- and long-range, e.g., population, industrial production, domestic consumption, prices, incomes, manpower resources, overseas trade;

(ii) Business trends and forecasts, both short- and long-range, for different types of business, e.g., motor cars, man- made fibres, refrigerators, carpets, canned soup and so on, with particular reference to the key economic factors affecting sales and profitability in the business concerned and the general climate in which the company operates or is likely to operate in the future;

(iii) Political trends and forecasts of relevance to business plan­ning, i.e., present and future government attitudes and policies towards business, government planning polices, regulations and controls, taxation and investment policies, business legislation, e.g., monopolies, restrictive practices, merchandise marks, sale of food and drugs;

(iv) Social trends and developments of import­ance to the business; for example, the growing articulateness of the consumer through official and independent consumer organisations and associations, changes in living and leisure hab­its, housing and amenity developments;

(v) Competitive intelli­gence covering past results, present and future plans and expecta­tions, company balance sheets, reports of shareholders’ meetings, management changes, organisation changes, acquisition, mergers, research and development activity, advertising effort and expen­ditures and so on;

(vi) Company searches, i.e., information obtained at the instigation of management from the Companies Registration Office and other published sources in connection with possible acquisitions and mergers for competitive reasons.

Types of Marketing Research – 2 Popular Types: Exploratory Research and Conclusive Research

Broadly, there are two types of research, viz.:

1. Exploratory research, and

2. Conclusive research.

1. Exploratory Research:

“Exploratory research seeks to discover new relationships, while conclusive research is designed to help executives choose from among the possible courses of action, that is, to make decisions.”

Exploratory research, as the term indicates, is investigative in nature. For example, the problem may be to find out why the sale of a product is poor or why a particular group of consumers likes or dislikes the product.

Sometimes, exploratory research may lead to conclusive research. “Exploratory research may define a problem which is then ‘solved’ by conclusive research, but the conclusive research may have by products which are in effect new exploratory studies leading to new hypothesis.”

An exploratory research may be conducted by:

i. Study of secondary data.

ii. Survey of knowledgeable persons.

iii. Analysis of selected cases, i.e., intensive study of a relatively small number of situations.

2. Conclusive Research:

There are two types of conclusive research, namely:

i. Descriptive research.

ii. Experimental research.

Descriptive studies are designed to describe certain things. (For example, the characteristics of users of a given product; the degree to which product use varies with demographic variables such as – age, sex, income etc.).

Descriptive research may be conducted by:

i. Case study.

ii. Statistical study.

As Boyd et. al point out, “the statistical method differs from the case method in the number of cases studied and in the comprehensiveness of the study of each case. While the case method involves a complete study of a few cases, statistical method involves the study of a few factors in a large number of cases.” Statistical studies, thus, bring out averages, percentages, measures of dispersion, etc.

Experimentation may be done in a laboratory situation or in the field. For example, consumer reaction to a new product may be tested in a simulate market situation or in the real market.

Types of Marketing Research – 4 Important Types: Exploratory Research, Descriptive Research, Casual Research and Conclusive Research

Marketing research is generally undertaken on a regular, continuous basis. This is quite natural because in a dynamic world the situation undergoes rapid changes. It is difficult for a business to survive if it is not well-informed of these changes.

However, marketing research can be done on an adhoc basis. The procedure for ad hoc research is more or less the same as that of regular, continuous research. Marketing research may be of four different types as Exploratory, Descriptive, Causal and Conclusive.

Type # 1. Exploratory Research:

This consists in preliminary investigations of the problem with the minimum of cost. Researcher undertakes exploratory research in order to generate an adequate basis for designing research and it includes searching for data that are already available both within the company and from external sources, consulting experts, conducting observational studies, getting feedback from marketplace and surveys. This type of research is undertaken when very little is known about the problem being examined.

Type # 2. Descriptive Research:

Descriptive research is undertaken for measuring and estimating the frequencies with which things occur or the degree of correlation between different variables. Market research reports are often descriptive and the data obtained by descriptive research is put to various statistical analyses.

Type # 3. Causal Research:

Causal research is basically concerned with establishing cause and effect relationship and an attempt to analyse why things happen. For example, to what extent advertising campaigns have changed sales may be explained by causal research.

Type # 4. Conclusive Research:

In this research the problem is identified, the information needs are also laid down comprehensively and the enquiry is conducted on a scientific basis. Conclusive research ends up in finding out a few alternative courses of action, out of which it is possible for marketer to choose the best one. The aim of conclusive research is to the taking of the final decision.