Secondary Research


Have you ever thought about the enormous amount of information at your fingertips? Much of this data (while not collected for a specific purpose) is available for making informed decisions before planning. This is known as secondary research… But, what exactly is secondary research, and how does it differ from other research methods? Let’s find out!

What is Secondary Research?

Secondary research is a technique that uses existing data. It is also known as “desk research.” It includes material published in research papers and other such documents. Secondary research is much cheaper than primary methods. With primary research organizations or businesses must collect data firsthand. They can also use a third party to gather information on their behalf.

Companies perform secondary research to assess low-cost, uncomplicated, and quick knowledge. It clarifies the research question. It also helps align the focus of primary research on a larger scale. There are two types of secondary analysis. These are internal and external secondary data. The first type consists of information gathered within the researcher’s firm. Researchers compile the second type outside of their respective companies.

Why is Secondary Research Important?

Secondary research is a time-saver. Instead of starting from scratch, researchers can tap into extensive pools of existing information. This wealth of data provides a foundational understanding, enabling them to make informed decisions about the direction of their subsequent research.

Moreover, it acts as a cost-effective alternative to its primary counterpart. Conducting fresh surveys, focus groups, or interviews can be expensive. So, before delving into these methods, businesses can significantly benefit from assessing readily available data. 

Secondary research also offers a diversified perspective. By assessing multiple studies and sources, researchers can gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic, ensuring that their conclusions aren’t limited to a singular viewpoint. This broad perspective creates a robust, well-rounded study that accounts for various facets of a subject.

… And this method has other advantages that can’t be ignored such as:

• Broad Spectrum of Data: Since this research encompasses previously conducted studies, it grants researchers access to a vast spectrum of data. This allows for an expansive view of the topic in question, providing nuances and insights that might be overlooked in a narrower study.

• Historical Context: Secondary research offers a historical perspective that is hard to achieve with fresh data. By studying trends over time, businesses can better understand market evolution and predict potential future shifts.

• Validation and Credibility: Incorporating findings from this research adds a layer of validation to a study. When independent sources align in their conclusions, it increases the credibility of the research outcome.

• Benchmarking and Competitive Analysis: It provides businesses with a platform to compare their performance against industry averages, competitors, or best practices, helping in identifying areas of improvement or potential market gaps.

• Risk Mitigation: By relying on pre-existing studies and analyses, businesses can better understand potential risks in their industry or market. This information can be pivotal in strategic planning and risk management.

• Informed Product Development: Research can unveil insights about market demands, competitor products, and customer preferences, thus guiding businesses during product ideation and refinement stages.

How is Secondary Research Important?

  • It enables managers to make better-informed decisions. Secondary research helps managers to understand consumer needs better. It thus aids them in creating a more impactful marketing plan. It allows for more informed strategizing and decision-making. The process thus increases the chance of success of a company’s marketing efforts.
  • It helps managers to identify new opportunities. It also helps them to test existing markets. They can use it to segment and analyze the market. They can also use it to choose the best target market. They can examine and test the company’s performance and reputation. Secondary research can help with product positioning, and with new product development.
  • It gives managers more perspectives. Secondary research material is available to the public. Many people review the information. Government material, the internet, and libraries are all excellent sources for secondary research. The data is extensive and may help to cover several issues.
  • It helps companies save money. Researchers don’t have to go through the expense of designing and implementing a study. Secondary research reuses data collected earlier. Thus, it is cheaper to compile than primary methods. The challenge with reusing data is that it might not be in the form that the client or the market researcher needs.
  • It helps companies save time. It doesn’t take long to find a credible source with factual information. It’s easy to find reports compiled by an industry leader or government agency. A researcher can find scholarly articles and a host of other resources on the internet. Companies should consider sources that have offered their research for public use.
  • It helps provide context. Many firms don’t consider what their focus should be when it comes to market research. These companies thus need to do some inner exploration. This is one reason why some primary market research companies offer secondary analysis. It is more cost-effective and faster. It also helps clients to build the framework for their primary research efforts.

Secondary research in some emerging markets such as China remains limited. These limitations persist despite their gains in managerial, economic, and policy relevance. This dearth of information may be an opportunity for researchers. They can use other creative methods to gather data. Primary research is inexpensive in developing markets. Researchers can thus use primary methods to provide context.

Emerging Trends in Secondary Research

In an era of digitization and continuous evolution, even established methodologies like secondary research aren’t immune to change. The dynamism of technology and global connectivity has ushered in innovative approaches and tools for harnessing pre-existing data. Let’s delve into some of these emerging trends:

• Integration of Advanced Analytics: Research is experiencing a change due to the integration of advanced analytics. With AI and machine learning tools, extracting and interpreting vast amounts of data has become more streamlined, enabling deeper insights.

• Subscription-Based Research Services: Given the overwhelming volume of information available, subscription-based services like Statista and are growing in popularity. They curate and compile data, providing relevant and industry-specific information.

• Collaborative Research Platforms: With global teams and international collaborations becoming the norm, platforms that allow for shared secondary research are emerging. These tools allow teams to annotate, comment, and collaborate on data, making the research process more cohesive and efficient.

Challenges of Secondary Research

Secondary research isn’t without its set of challenges. Being aware of these pitfalls is crucial for organizations aiming to leverage such research to its fullest potential.

• Potential for Outdated Information: One of the primary concerns with secondary research is the age of the data. Trends, consumer behaviors, and market landscapes can change rapidly. Relying on outdated information can lead businesses astray or cause them to miss emerging opportunities.

• Lack of Specificity: Since this research isn’t tailored to a company’s unique questions or objectives, it may not address specific nuances or concerns that are pertinent to the business. This can sometimes result in a mismatch between the research’s insights and the company’s needs.

• Data Integrity Concerns: Not all sources maintain the same rigor or standards. There’s a risk of basing decisions on inaccurate or biased data, which can have detrimental effects on strategy and outcomes.

• Over-reliance and Complacency: The ease and accessibility of secondary research can sometimes lead businesses to overly depend on it, neglecting primary research’s value. This can result in a lack of fresh insights or a disconnect from the current market pulse.

• Potential Cost Implications: While this research is generally more affordable than primary research, accessing premium databases, reports, or studies can still incur significant costs.

Future Outlook of Secondary Research

The role of secondary research in guiding business strategies is poised to evolve in several transformative ways. These are some of the expected trends for the near future regarding secondary research:

• Dynamic Real-time Data: The future might see a shift from static, historical datasets to more real-time data streams. This will be catalyzed by the proliferation of IoT devices, online platforms, and real-time analytics tools. Access to real-time data will empower businesses to make timely decisions and stay agile in a rapidly changing market.

• Customizable Research Platforms: Instead of generic reports, the future may offer platforms where businesses can tailor their research inquiries, selecting the exact type of data and insights they need. Such customization will bridge the gap between generic secondary data and specific business questions.

• Greater Collaborative Research Opportunities: Open-source platforms and collaborative research communities might redefine secondary research. Businesses could potentially crowdsource insights or collaborate on shared industry challenges, fostering a more cooperative and holistic research environment.

• Interdisciplinary Approach: Secondary research will likely become more interdisciplinary, integrating insights from diverse fields like behavioral sciences, neurology, and even quantum computing. Such a multifaceted approach will yield richer and more holistic business insights.

Contact us for your next Market Research Project.

Want to share this story?