Primary Market Research Methods

Primary market research provides information and intelligence that is used in the development and marketing of new products and services. Primary market research is done in the early stages of a product’s development and can often determine if a product or service will succeed or fail.

The market research definition explained is vital to your understanding of this subject. There are various kinds of primary research methods that include web-based surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews and secondary research. These different methods have been used by large and small companies to provide a better view on the customer’s expectations and preferences for a specific product or service.

Social media listening

Social media has reached a point where it is seamlessly integrated into our lives. And because it is a digital extension of ourselves, people freely express their opinions, thoughts, and hot takes on social media.

Because people share so much content on social media and the sharing is so instant, social media is a treasure trove for market research. There is plenty of data to tap into and dissect.

By using a social listening tool, like Consumer Research, researchers are able to identify topics of their interest, then analyze relevant social posts. For example, they can track brand mentions and what consumers are saying about the products owned by that brand.

Social media listening democratizes insights, and is especially useful for market research because of the vast amount of unfiltered information available. Because it’s unprompted, you can be fairly sure that what’s shared is an accurate account of what the person really cares about and thinks (as opposed to them being given a subject to dwell on in the presence of a researcher).


Interviews are a common type of primary market research that can be either in-depth or as simple as asking a question. An example of an interview in market research is when a business calls a current customer to ask how they are enjoying a product they recently purchased. Marketers can interview a person in their home, on the street, in the office or in a market research facility. This type of primary market research takes the most time but also typically yields the most valuable information.

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Watching how customers use your products or services is a quick way to spot potential problems, such as how difficult it is for customers to navigate your online store. Observation spans a huge range of applications – from browsing habits on a website to watching the flow of traffic into and out of a car park.

How does observation work?
Observation is a type of qualitative market research, where you gather insights and information by watching people go through a series of activities. Observation is usually hidden – for example using online customer monitoring software such as LuckyOrange or through security cameras – though some might be overt, such as walking with a customer around a store. They don’t have to take place in special rooms or labs; observing customers in shops, restaurants or even out-and-about are all valid approaches.

Advantages of observation – While you always need permission and full consent from a subject, if you’re able to watch them covertly subjects often behave more naturally and show their true actions, rather than their ‘ideal selves’ that they typically show to strangers.

Disadvantages of observation – Observation is time-consuming and expensive. Researchers have little control over the situations and environments typically used in observational research, and sometimes the act of observing can bias results or influence the situation. Someone who knows they’re being observed may act less naturally.

Focus groups

A focus group is a group of individuals who have been selected to take part in a discussion about a certain area of interest, product or topic. A marketer or organization typically facilitates these groups to to gain more insight on how a particular business, product or service will be received by their target audience. For example, a marketer may ask the focus group a series of questions that gives the marketer a better idea of how the group feels about a certain topic.


Testing focuses on learning about people’s experiences. Often used in later stages of product development, it’s a chance for potential customers to test out your product or service. It can be used to ensure a product is fit for market – such as being robust enough when handled – to getting feedback on how a product works.

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How does testing work?
Any time that your customers try a new product or service is technically a test – for example, a restaurant chain may place a new dish on the menu, advertising the dish with discounts and money-off coupons. Sales of the new dish can then be tracked to validate its success, and feedback sought from customers as to whether they liked it.

Advantages of testing – Testing can result in specific feedback that can help hone a product. By letting customers test a product, any rough edges can be refined before rolling it out on a larger scale. Testing also puts the product in a real-world environment, which can throw up usability issues that otherwise wouldn’t have been spotted.

Disadvantages of testing – It can sometimes be expensive and time-consuming, and some companies can often overlook this stage because it happens quite far into the development cycle.


Some companies choose to perform market research by sending questionnaires to their existing customers or users who have shown interest in their product or service. A company may ask the customer or person to fill out a survey while in the store or they may send out a survey via mail or email. Examples of questions that a questionnaire may ask include:

  • What benefits do you get from this product?
  • How does this product compare to other products like it that you’ve used?
  • What would you change about this product?
  • What would make you a perfect company or brand?
  • What is your primary method of communication (for future questionnaires or marketing efforts)?
  • What made you purchase this product from our company?
  • What features are the most valuable to you?
  • Where do you typically do your shopping?
  • What income range are you in?
  • How old you are?
  • What gender do you identify with?


Surveys allow companies to ask their target audience various questions based on their preferences, demographics and other important factors that influence their spending. When creating a survey, it’s important to first define the problem you wish to explore with your survey. For example, maybe your company wants to improve a particular feature on a product. Knowing this problem will ensure you ask the right questions to better understand how to best address the issue in a way that suits your target demographic.

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Next, you should target the right audience by getting clear on the population you wish to survey. You can also incorporate screening questions into your survey that qualify or disqualify the survey takers based on your desired criteria. Lastly, it’s important to use resources when conducting surveys, especially if you want to conduct larger surveys. There are several online survey tools that allow you to survey a large amount of people and compile that data in one succinct location for easy analysis.


Primary market research is the initial marketing research conducted with actual customers to learn about their customer needs and wants. The goal of primary research is to gain insight into the target audience. For example, companies perform primary research to determine if their product or service will be accepted in the marketplace, who their potential customers are, and how much they are willing to pay for a product or service.

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