Primary and Secondary Research

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines marketing research as follows: “the function that links the consumer, customer, and public to the marketer through information—information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process. Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues, designs the method for collecting information, manages and implements the data collection process, analyzes the results, and communicates the findings and their implications.” (AMA, 2013, para. 2)

There are two types of research (Marshall & Johnston, 2011):

  • primary research—Data is collected specifically for a certain research question, (i.e., primary data). Data may be quantitative (statistical analysis), or qualitative (e.g., surveys, focus groups, and interviews). Primary research is important when making strategic decisions. While primary research is costly and more time consuming, it is more accurate and reliable.
  • secondary research—Data was collected for some other purpose than the research question at hand. Secondary research may involve an internet search, periodicals, CRM data, government sources (e.g., economic census), and market research organizations. Secondary data is cheaper to obtain and is less time consuming to use because it is readily available; however, it may be outdated or unreliable. In addition, secondary research may not be a perfect fit for the research question. In general, primary research usually starts with a scan of the available secondary information to help further refine the search.


AMA (2013). Marketing research definition. Retrieved from

Marshall, G. W., & Johnston, M. W. (2011). Essentials of marketing management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.