5 main marketing research methods

How to collect primary information for marketing research?

There are 5 main methods of conducting marketing research: observation, focus groups, surveys, customer behavior data, and experimentation. Each method represents a certain way of collecting primary information for solving business problems. Each of the 5 methods has its own advantages, disadvantages, limitations and is capable of providing information of varying completeness and accuracy. In this article, we will briefly, but succinctly, each of the research methods.



Observation is a very simple and convenient method of conducting marketing research. The necessary information is collected through the observation of the target audience. You can observe almost everything: how a person makes a purchase, what he does, how his day goes, how he watches TV, advertisements, etc. Observation can be inconsistent (when the audience does not know that it is being watched) and consistent. Observation can be both quantitative and qualitative marketing research methods.

In modern marketing practice, many ways have been invented for the most practical use of this method: the respondent is given special devices that track his actions; the respondent is asked to keep a diary and photograph certain moments; a human observer simply walks behind the respondent and makes certain notes; the purchase process is monitored using video cameras at points of sale; home visits to study the consumer’s life; the consumer offers to use a new product for a long time and monitors the entire process of using the product.

The observation method can give you really primary, undistorted information about your audience. You will be able to see the true behavior of the consumer in the environment familiar to him, see how he lives, how he buys, how he interacts with the world around him, and with the necessary things. High-quality observation methods generate a lot of insights and help to correctly build the concept of an advertising message. The disadvantage of the method is the interpretation of the information seen. The consumer does not give you an answer to your questions, he demonstrates his behavior to you at a specific point in time. It may not be typical for him right now, and you can build the wrong conclusions on the basis of this. Therefore, when you conduct qualitative observations, study the behavior of the audience over a long period of time, in dynamics.

Focus group

A focus group is an extremely high-quality marketing study and is a discussion of a small number of people on a given topic. The topic can be absolutely anything: you can discuss a new film, a new product, a consumer’s lifestyle, perceptions of certain brands in the industry, the concept of an advertising video, product consumption habits. The purpose of such research is exploration, search for initial hypotheses, answers to questions.

There are always 3 parties to a focus group: the moderator, the respondents, and the observer. The moderator sets the general tone and direction of the conversation; makes sure that during the conversation each respondent can speak; asks prompting questions; helps to express and most importantly develop certain thoughts. He makes sure that the answers to the questions asked are as complete as possible, detailed, with a causal relationship. The respondents represent a group of 6-10 people and during the focus group, they take turns expressing their opinion on the questions asked. In general, the focus group resembles a mass interview. The observing party sits behind the glass and observes the process. The participants in the process do not see it. Observing party – the customer can send additional and clarifying questions to the moderator.

In focus groups, it is very important to observe the reactions and emotions of the respondents. When respondents are in a group, they behave differently than in a personal interview: they are less restrained and show lively emotions that are important to capture and which often speak more than words. It is important to make notes in front of the statements, which will then help to write the correct report. The effectiveness of a focus group is 80% dependent on a good moderator.


A survey is a marketing research method that involves a conversation with a separate representative of the target audience. If you require marketing services, discuss with professionals on a given list of questions. The survey is both a qualitative (in-depth interview) and a quantitative method. In a survey, it is important to correctly compose a questionnaire, which will not be problematic for the target audience to answer. Write the questions correctly: they should be unambiguous, complete, understandable, using simple terminology. After the questionnaire is ready, conduct a test survey, let several members of the audience fill it out, correct the items that caused confusion or stupor.

Collecting consumption data

A separate research method is the collection of information about the actual actions and purchases of the consumer. This type of information collection refers to quantitative research and takes place without direct interaction with the buyer. You can collect data on sales of large chains, a shopping basket based on actual store receipts, analyze purchases by credit cards, and cross-consumption. To implement this method, access to certain technologies and the personal information of buyers is required. Such studies are often carried out by large research agencies and can be bought as secondary information.


Experimental studies are conducted to understand complex causal relationships in customer behavior, assess the influence of various factors, test hypotheses, deeply study consumers, and search for insights. In the course of the experiment, certain conditions are specially created and the necessary situation is simulated. In any scientific experiment, it is important to take into account and control all the variables, work out the research project in detail and select the audience. Experiments performed correctly can provide very valuable and unambiguously correct information about the consumer. If you require marketing services, discuss with professionals