Primary Market Research: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

man and woman looking at primary market research - blog

In today's highly competitive business landscape, companies need to stay ahead of the curve to succeed. One of the best ways to do this is by conducting primary market research.

Primary market research involves gathering first-hand data from potential customers, clients, and stakeholders to better understand their needs, preferences, and behaviors.

By doing so, companies can identify new opportunities, mitigate risks, and make more informed decisions.

Read on to find out what primary market research actually entails, the benefits that come along with it, and how to find a third-party vendor. 

Looking to conduct primary market research with a third party? Contact our market research company today by filling out a form on our website or emailing [email protected].

What is Primary Market Research?

Primary market research is a custom study conducted by yourself or with a third-party firm. It is collected through methodologies such as surveys, in-depth interviews (IDIs), or focus groups. 

Because it is a custom service,  the research itself was commissioned by an organization and is tailored specifically to meet their needs.

It involves going directly to a targeted source, like customers or employees, and asking questions to gain valuable insight.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Primary research is done by a third-party vendor or yourself, and can be quantitative, qualitative, or a culmination of both. With it, you’ll get data ownership and customization.

Primary vs. Secondary Market Research

Primary and secondary research are two common types of research methods used in gathering information for a particular purpose.

The main difference between the two is the source of the data.

  1. Primary research involves gathering data directly from the source. This means that the data is original, and the researcher collects the information for the first time.

  2. Secondary research involves gathering data from already existing sources. This data is usually gathered by someone else, for a different purpose, and is made available for other researchers to use.

Examples of secondary research sources include newspapers, journals, government reports, company websites, and databases.

A company may use secondary research as a more cost-effective way to gain insights into industry trends, market size, and competitor strategies.

For instance, Drive Research creates syndicated reports such as our Cannabis Consumer Report for dispensaries or marketing agencies to uncover cannabis user insights without commissioning a custom study on their own.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Primary research involves collecting new data directly from the source, while secondary research involves using already existing data sources to gather information.

Types of Primary Market Research

Primary research can either be quantitative or qualitative or a hybrid of both.

Examples of primary research methods include:

  • Online surveys
  • Focus groups
  • In-depth interviews (IDIs)
  • Intercept surveys
  • In-home usage tests (IHUTs)

Regardless of the type of market research, one thing remains the same: the research is exclusive and original.

Below, our market research company provides a brief rundown of each of these types of primary research methods and their pros and cons.

1. Online Surveys

An online survey is a primary research method that uses the Internet to collect information from a sample of respondents.

The process involves creating a questionnaire or set of questions that can be accessed online via a website or email.

Some advantages of online surveys include:

  • Large sample sizes: Online surveys can reach a large number of respondents quickly, making it possible to gather a lot of data in a short period.

  • Cost-effective: Online surveys are often less expensive than traditional surveys that involve printing and mailing questionnaires or conducting interviews in person.

  • Speed: Online surveys can be conducted quickly, and data can be collected and analyzed in real time.

Some disadvantages of online surveys include:

  • Limited feedback: Since this method is purely done online, there is no back-and-forth dialogue to assure the answers you collect are detailed and in-depth.

  • Dropouts: Respondents don’t always finish the survey. While there’s no way to fully prevent this, it can be lessened by creating engaging questions, upping incentives, and so on. 

2. Focus Groups

Focus groups are a qualitative research method in which a group of people is brought together to discuss a specific topic or issue.

The goal is to gather opinions, attitudes, and perceptions about the topic and to identify common themes and patterns.

drive research focus group room

Some advantages of focus groups include:

  • In-depth dialogue: Because focus groups are built on conversation, this allows for varied feedback to be gathered. As a result, the data is rich because it’s built on a number of different viewpoints. There may be certain topics that would never have been brought up had it not been for a back-and-forth. 

  • See audience feedback in real-time: Focus groups are unique in that they can be seen by the client in real-time. This is a key difference when comparing focus groups to other market research methods (and can give the client a birds eye view of the data collection process).

  • Location: Surprisingly versatile, focus groups can be conducted online or in person. This depends on what’s easiest for the client. Thankfully, each method is equally effective. 

Some disadvantages of focus groups include:

  • Expense: Focus groups can be pricey, to be blunt. The cost per participant ranges between $100-$200, along with the cost of renting out a facility. 

  • Less detailed feedback: While focus groups are beneficial because of their conversation design, this can dilute the data. Meaning, you may not get as many details as you would with a participant one-on-one. 

  • Representation: Because you’re dealing with a small group of people, only so much demographic information can be included in the project.

Recommended Reading: Conducting Online Focus Groups [Ultimate Guide]


3. In-depth interviews (IDIs)

In-depth interviews, or IDIs for short, are a qualitative research method that involves conducting one-on-one interviews with individuals to gather detailed information about their attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and experiences related to a specific topic or issue.

The goal is to gain deep insights into the thoughts and motivations of the interviewee.

Some advantages of in-depth interviews include:

  • Detailed feedback: As with focus groups, IDIs revolve around conversations. The difference here is that they are between the interviewer and the participant. As a result, detailed feedback is given.

  • Cost-effective: IDIs are usually done over the phone–which means you don’t have to spend money on a facility and other related costs, as you would with focus groups. 

  • Customizable: Since IDIs have a one-on-one design, they can be easily tailored to the participant. Additionally, participants may feel more comfortable sharing in this setting.

Some disadvantages of in-depth interviews include:

  • Lack of face-to-face contact: While it’s simple to conduct these interviews over the phone, the lack of visuals can be a deterrent. As a result, interviewers may opt for a Skype interview. 

  • Reliant on participant comfortability: Because this is an interview with just one participant, that’s all there is to rely on. For instance, if a participant doesn’t want to share about a certain topic, then they won’t. This can harm the quality (and amount) of feedback received. 

4. Intercept surveys

Intercept surveys are a research method in which participants are approached and interviewed on-site, often in public places like shopping centers, airports, or train stations, to gather data on their opinions or behaviors.

Some advantages of intercept surveys include:

  • Authentic feedback: Intercept surveys are perhaps the best way to gather genuine feedback from people. Since you’re gathering information from people in a spur-of-the-moment setting, their feedback will likely be how they truly feel.

  • Versatility: These surveys can be conducted in person or online. The preferred option is dependent on the goals of the project. 

  • Diversity: A huge benefit of intercept surveys is their ability to collect diverse information from diverse groups of people. The differences across responses create a well-rounded pool of data to use.

Some disadvantages of intercept surveys include:

  • Pressure: A downside to intercept surveys is that respondents may feel pressured to answer a certain way, based on the nature of these surveys. That’s why it’s key to ensure they feel comfortable, whether the survey is in-person or online.

  • They (can) take time: If you’re running in-person intercept surveys, this can be fairly time-consuming. This is a main reason behind the popularity of online intercept surveys. 

  • Lack of responses: Put simply, people may not be willing to answer your questions at all. This is the game with intercept surveys, which is why questions and prompts need to be engaging and concise. That said, this is more of an issue when they’re done in person. 

5. In-home usage tests (IHUTs)

In-home usage tests (IHUTs) are a research method used to test a product in a real-life setting by providing samples to participants for use in their own homes.

It is an effective primary market research methodology to gather feedback on a product's performance, usability, and overall appeal. This is great for informing product development and marketing strategies.

For more in-depth information, I recommend reading our Ultimate Guide to In-Home Usage Tests

Some advantages of IHUTS include:

  • Prototype-friendly: This type of market research for new product development is ideal for concept testing. The feedback received will allow companies to tweak and perfect their item before it hits the market. 

  • Market knowledge: Based on the feedback, brands will have a wide range of data to choose from when it comes to improving their product. Not only will this improve their product, but it will also allow the brands to have a better understanding of their audience. 

  • They’re ongoing: IHUTs can be ongoing to gather feedback on a product in pre and post-development. This is ideal, as it’s a way to continuously measure and improve upon a product.

Some disadvantages of IHUTS include:

  • Control: Because these are done without the direct influence of a moderator, there may be a lack of control for these projects. Participants may be confused or have other negative reactions to the product that may slip by.

  • Participant independence: Similar to the above con, participants may not use the product as intended or for the recommended time for testing. This can sully the data and promote inaccuracies. 

  • Not ideal for technical products: This depends on every case, of course, but the more technical the product, the higher the chances for a complicated IHUT experience. Consider the intricacies of your product before choosing this method. 

Our video below provides more information on this unique market research method: 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Each type of primary market research method above has a unique set of pros and cons, and the potential to win you a huge amount of data. 

Benefits of Conducting Primary Market Research

If you were to say that primary research is less costly than secondary research, you wouldn't necessarily be wrong.

Secondary research may very well be the cheaper option, often readily available online or through a database.

However, we believe that the benefits of primary market research strongly outweigh any of the costs associated with it.

Benefit #1: Data ownership

Access to secondary market research data may be limited. With primary research, however, you and your company have complete ownership of the data that you collect.

Ownership of research data is important.

With an initial round of primary research under your belt, you and your company have the ability to look back and compare future waves of data to see how your company fared previously.

The most important benchmark in market research is you! With data ownership, you can see how you and your company have done within a certain time frame.

Benefit #2: Relevancy

You’ve searched tirelessly for information on your target audience, and you’ve finally come across a data set from a relevant study!

There’s just one problem. The study was conducted five years ago.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it's that in this day and age, the world is constantly changing.

Consumer attitudes and market trends change regularly, and data from a study conducted last year may not apply to today’s market conditions.

With primary research conducted now, you can guarantee data that is timely and relevant.

Benefit #3: Targeted approach

When conducting a primary market research study, you have complete control over how it is carried out. You can tailor the entire study to fit the needs of your company.

Oftentimes, when searching for secondary research data, you may have a hard time finding information that aligns with your company, goals and objectives, and preferred target audience.

When you can execute a fully custom research study, you get to set the objectives, choose the methodology used, and choose the audience that you sample.

At the end of the study, you have data relative to your specific, targeted audience rather than the mass market to which most secondary research applies.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Primary research offers data ownership, relevant information, and personalized targeting. These factors ensure your company receives clear, timely data for the best results.

Example Primary Market Research Study

Let's say a grocery chain contacts a primary research firm, like Drive Research to understand the awareness level of its grocery store and know the key drivers behind customers' decisions to choose a grocery store.

Here are the steps our market research company would take:

  1. We would start by designing a survey that gathers data on customers' awareness of the grocery store chain and their reasons for choosing a grocery store.
  2. The survey is then distributed to a representative sample of customers through various channels, such as email, social media, or in-store intercepts.
  3. Once the data is collected, our primary market research company can analyze it using various statistical methods to identify patterns and trends in the data.
  4. We can also conduct additional analyses, such as regression analysis, to understand the factors that are driving customers' decisions to choose a grocery store.
  5. Based on the findings, Drive Research can provide the grocery chain with insights and recommendations on how to improve its brand awareness and customer experience, such as by enhancing its marketing campaigns or improving its product offerings.

Overall, this example highlights the value of primary market research in helping businesses gain insights into their customers' needs and preferences, and make informed decisions to improve their performance and stay competitive in their industry.

Alternatively, through secondary research, you may be able to source a study that was conducted through syndicated research such as our Grocery Shopping Consumer Segmentation Report. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Through the use of primary market research, brands collect unique and original data from consumers in your market area. This is more beneficial than relying on general U.S. consumer data often found through secondary research.

Why Hire a Primary Market Research Vendor

The benefits of primary market research are numerous, but it can also be a time-consuming and complex process.

Fortunately, there are third-party vendors like Drive Research that can help businesses conduct primary market research more efficiently and effectively.

Organizations may choose to hire a primary market research vendor for several reasons, many of which include:

  • Expertise and experience: Primary market research vendors have specialized knowledge and experience in designing and conducting research studies, analyzing data, and providing insights and recommendations based on findings.

  • Access to resources: By hiring a primary market research company you also get access to a wider range of resources and tools for conducting research, such as advanced survey software, panel data, and statistical analysis programs, that may not be available in-house.

  • Objectivity and impartiality: Being that they don’t work for your organization, a third party has an impartial perspective on research findings, without being influenced by internal biases or agendas.

  • Time savings: Hiring a vendor to conduct primary research can save organizations time, as vendors can handle all aspects of the research process, from design to analysis and reporting.

  • Risk reduction: Outsourcing research to a vendor can help reduce the risk of errors and biases in research design and implementation, as vendors have rigorous quality control processes in place to ensure the accuracy and reliability of research findings.

At Drive Research, we can work with you to develop a survey or discussion guide that is tailored to your individual needs. We believe that no two businesses are alike, and the customization of research instruments is crucial in ensuring a successful and insightful study.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Overall, hiring a primary market research vendor can provide organizations with access to specialized expertise, resources, and tools, while saving time and reducing costs and risks.

Contact Our Primary Market Research Company

Ready to conduct a custom market research study? Our team is ready to help. Drive Research is a full-service market research company. We partner with brands across the world on a variety of quantitative and qualitative studies.

Interested in learning more about our services? Contact Drive Research today.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040


Devan Grant

Devan's love for learning serves him well as a market research professional. With two years of both quantitative and qualitative research in the healthcare space under his belt, he knows what it takes to answer some of the toughest market research questions.

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