Desk Research

Secondary Desk Research

Desk Research is an integral part of any Market Intelligence and Market Research study.

Also known as Secondary Research, it can aid the researchers in understanding a particular market or industry to ask intelligent questions during interviews.

In Competitive Analysis, Desk Research is also used to map out potential sources of information such as industry associations, former and current employees of major players, industry experts and regulators.  It can also identify and collect potential respondents’ contact information.

What is Secondary Research?

Secondary Research is a technique that uses existing and publicly available data.  It includes material published in research papers and other such documents. Secondary research tends to be cheaper than primary methods. With primary research organizations or businesses collect data firsthand. 

Companies perform secondary research to assess low-cost, publicly-verified, and quick knowledge. Secondary Research can help clarify and explain trends. 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.

Desk Research Secondary Research

Why is Secondary Research Important?

Primary market research provides depth of insight, and the ability to probe into phenomena. In some cases, secondary market research is all that a company needs. It paves the way for primary research. It helps companies to analyze the external market environment. Companies can also use it to identify broad trends and shifts in an industry. It gives insight into market information and regulation. 

Its importance stems from its ability to provide a foundational understanding of various market and industry aspects, guiding businesses in strategic decision-making. Here’s why secondary research is so crucial for businesses:

Why is Secondary Research Helpful?

• 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 identify existing markets. They can use it to segment and analyze the market and competition.  Secondary research can help with product positioning, competitive analysis, and 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 reexamines 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 introspection. 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.

Desk Research in Emerging Markets

While Secondary research is plentiful in developed countries, secondary research in some emerging markets such as China remains limited. These limitations persist due to different political, economic, regulations, cultural norms, and other reasons. 

Desk research is especially challenging in Southeast Asia because of the lack of access to libraries, lack of transparency to government records and academic publications, poor documentation practices and language barriers. While the spread of adoption and availability of the internet has improved this situation, censorship has been increasing across the region. SEA governments have been implementing regulations that curtail free speech and publication of information through censorship, filtering, or blocking online publications.

Internet service providers, webmasters and private companies running sites are being made liable for the materials that are published–media controls such as licensing for online news in Singapore; the Philippine Cyber Protection Law included provisions controlling free speech; and a government agency in Thailand monitors and blocks URLs with unapproved content.

Desk Research is necessary to provide baseline information in understanding the overall market structure and landscape, the industry situation and trends, past consumer trends and behaviors, and identification of sources in support of primary research. However, it is often very difficult to get reliable information from desk research alone, especially in SEA. For government data and records, researchers would often need to personally and formally request reports from government agencies. While government agencies across the region are beginning to post public records online, these data are still not complete, not updated, or not completely accessible. There are also limited published academic papers and limited access. Most private institutions only have basic information on their websites, and there are limited databases covering Southeast Asian companies.

Benefits of Desk Research for Businesses

Desk research offers several benefits to businesses, making it a valuable component of the overall market research strategy. Here are some key advantages:

• Cost-Effectiveness: Since it involves the use of existing data, desk research is typically more cost-effective than conducting primary research, which requires the collection of new data.

• Time Savings: It can be conducted relatively quickly as it leverages already available information, enabling businesses to gain insights in a shorter timeframe.

• Broad Overview of Market: Desk research provides a comprehensive overview of the market, industry trends, competitive landscape, and consumer behavior, which is essential for strategic planning.

• Identifying Opportunities and Threats: By analyzing existing market and industry data, businesses can identify potential growth opportunities as well as threats that need to be managed.

• Informed Decision-Making The insights gained from secondary research help businesses make more informed and strategic decisions, reducing the likelihood of costly mistakes.

• Guidance for Primary Research: The findings from desk research can help in formulating hypotheses and guiding the focus of subsequent primary research, making it more targeted and efficient.

• Risk Mitigation: Understanding the market and industry dynamics helps businesses mitigate risks, particularly when entering new markets or launching new products.

• Benchmarking Capabilities: It allows businesses to benchmark their performance against industry standards and competitors, which can highlight areas for improvement and competitive advantage.

• Accessibility: With the proliferation of digital resources and online databases, accessing secondary data has become more convenient and accessible for businesses of all sizes.

• Strategic Agility: Desk research equips businesses with the knowledge to quickly adapt to market changes and emerging trends, maintaining their competitive edge.

When to Conduct Desk Research

Identifying the right circumstances to conduct desk research or secondary research is key to leveraging its benefits effectively. This research method is particularly useful in various scenarios in a business’s lifecycle. Here are the situations when conducting desk research is most beneficial:

Initial Market Exploration: When exploring new markets or industries, desk research provides a cost-effective way to gain an initial understanding before investing in more detailed primary research.

• Strategic Planning: Before embarking on strategic planning processes, secondary research offers valuable insights into market trends, consumer behaviors, and competitive landscapes.

• Product Development: In the early stages of product development, desk research helps in identifying market needs, trends, and potential customer preferences.

• Competitor Analysis: For ongoing monitoring of competitors, desk research is an efficient way to gather information about competitors’ strategies, products, and market performance.

• Investment and Expansion Decisions: When considering investment opportunities or planning for business expansion, secondary research provides an overview of the potential risks and rewards.

• In Response to Industry Changes: In situations where there are significant shifts in the industry such as regulatory changes or technological advancements, desk research can provide timely insights.

• Crisis Management: In times of crisis or market upheaval, secondary research can quickly provide background information to help navigate the situation.

• Customer and Market Segmentation: To understand and segment the customer base or market, desk research provides demographic and psychographic data.

How to Choose the Right Secondary Research Consulting Agency

Selecting the appropriate secondary research consulting agency is crucial for businesses seeking expert assistance in gathering and analyzing existing market and industry data. The right agency can provide valuable insights and save time and resources. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a secondary research consulting agency:

• Expertise and Experience: Look for an agency with a proven track record and expertise in secondary research. Experience in your specific industry or with similar projects can be a significant advantage.

• Customization and Flexibility: The agency should be able to tailor its services to your specific needs. Avoid one-size-fits-all solutions and opt for an agency that offers customized research services.

• Reputation and References: Check the agency’s reputation in the market. Look for client testimonials, case studies, and ask for references to gauge their credibility and the quality of their work.

• Confidentiality and Security: Ensure that the agency has strict confidentiality and data security policies in place to protect sensitive information.

• After-Support and Consultation: Post-research support can be valuable. Check if the agency provides consultation or support after the delivery of the research findings.

• Alignment with Business Goals: Lastly, ensure that the agency’s approach aligns with your overall business goals and objectives. The research should be actionable and relevant to your strategic needs.

Current Trends in Desk Research

In the ever-evolving business landscape, desk research is also undergoing significant changes. Keeping abreast of current trends is vital for businesses to ensure that their research methods remain effective and relevant. Here are some of the current trends in desk research:

• Digital Data Sources: There is an increasing reliance on digital data sources. Online databases, social media analytics, and digital publications are becoming relevant sources of secondary data.

• Big Data Analytics: The use of big data analytics in desk research is on the rise. Businesses are leveraging big data tools to analyze large sets of existing data for more comprehensive insights.

• AI and Machine Learning: Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are being used to automate and enhance the process of data collection and analysis in secondary research.

• Focus on Real-Time Data: Real-time data analysis is becoming more important in desk research. Businesses are seeking the most current data available to make timely decisions.

• Global Scope: Desk research is increasingly global in scope, with businesses looking for insights into international markets and global trends.

• Customization and Specialization: There is a move towards more customized and specialized desk research services, tailored to specific industries or business needs.

Differences in Conducting Secondary Research in Emerging Markets and Mature Markets

Conducting secondary research in emerging markets versus mature markets presents distinct challenges and considerations due to differences in market structures, data availability, and economic conditions. Here are some key differences:

Data Availability and Reliability:

• Emerging Markets: Often characterized by limited availability of reliable data. Sources such as government statistics, market reports, and academic studies are less comprehensive or updated less frequently. 

• Mature Markets: Typically have a wealth of reliable, regularly updated data from various sources like government agencies, reputable market research firms, and established academic institutions.

Market Dynamics:

• Emerging Markets: Characterized by rapid changes, high volatility, and unpredictable consumer behavior. This dynamism can make historical data quickly outdated. Political instability and regulatory changes can also impact market conditions significantly.

• Mature Markets: Generally exhibit more stable and predictable market dynamics. Trends and consumer behaviors evolve more slowly, making historical data more relevant for longer periods.

Infrastructure and Technological Penetration:

• Emerging Markets: May have less developed infrastructure and lower levels of technological adoption, affecting how data is collected and analyzed.

• Mature Markets: Generally have advanced infrastructure and higher technological penetration, providing a broader range of digital data sources like online consumer behavior, social media trends, and e-commerce metrics.

Economic Indicators and Metrics:

• Emerging Markets: Economic indicators may not fully capture the market’s dynamics due to a significant informal sector and rapid changes. Alternative indicators and creative methodologies might be needed to understand the market.

• Mature Markets: Standard economic indicators and metrics are generally more reflective of the market conditions, making it easier to conduct comparative and trend analyses.

Opportunities in Secondary Research for Businesses

Secondary research offers a range of opportunities for businesses to enhance their strategic planning and decision-making processes. By leveraging existing data and insights, businesses can capitalize on several fronts. Here are some key opportunities that secondary research currently presents:

• Competitive Analysis: Businesses can use secondary research to gather intelligence on competitors, understand their strategies, and identify areas where they can gain a competitive advantage.

• Identification of New Business Opportunities: By analyzing market reports and industry studies, businesses can identify new opportunities for growth, such as unexplored market segments or emerging consumer needs.

• Benchmarking: Businesses can use secondary data to benchmark their performance against industry standards or competitors, identifying areas for improvement.

• Global Market Understanding: For businesses looking to expand internationally, secondary research provides an understanding of global market dynamics, consumer preferences, and regulatory environments.

• Product Development and Innovation: Information on current market trends and consumer preferences can guide product development and innovation strategies.

• Informed Decision-Making: Secondary research equips business leaders with the necessary information to make more informed and strategic business decisions.

Challenges of Secondary Research for Businesses

Desk research is a valuable tool for businesses that comes with its own set of challenges. Thus, successfully navigating these challenges is key to leveraging the full benefits of secondary research. Here are some common obstacles businesses may encounter:

• Relevance and Timeliness: Ensuring the data is relevant and up-to-date is crucial, as outdated or irrelevant information can lead to misguided decisions.

• Data Overload: With the vast amount of information available, businesses may face the challenge of filtering through and identifying what is most pertinent to their needs.

• Quality and Credibility of Sources: Assessing the credibility and quality of the data sources is vital since relying on unverified or biased sources can lead to inaccurate conclusions.

• Lack of Specificity: Secondary data may not always be specific to a business’s unique questions or scenarios, requiring additional primary research for more tailored insights.

• Costs Associated with Paid Sources: While secondary research is generally more cost-effective than primary, some valuable sources of data, like certain market reports or databases, may come with high access costs.

• Sector-Specific Challenges: Depending on the industry, there may be limited availability of specific data, which can hinder the depth of analysis.

Future Outlook of Desk Research for Businesses

The future of desk research in the business world is likely to be shaped by evolving technologies, changing data landscapes, and the growing need for strategic insights. 

• Advanced Data Analytics Integration: The use of sophisticated data analytics tools and AI is expected to become more prevalent in desk research, allowing for deeper and more insightful analysis of existing data.

• Greater Emphasis on Real-Time Data: As markets and consumer behaviors continue to change rapidly, the demand for real-time data and insights will increase, influencing how secondary research is conducted and utilized.

• Increased Digital and Online Sources: The reliance on digital and online sources for secondary research will grow, with businesses leveraging social media analytics, online consumer reviews, and digital publication archives more extensively.

• Combination with Big Data: The integration of secondary research findings with big data insights will offer a more comprehensive view of market trends, consumer behaviors, and competitive landscapes.

• Customization and Niche Focus: Customized secondary research services tailored to specific industries or business needs will likely become more popular, offering more targeted and relevant insights.

• Emergence of Specialized Research Firms: Specialized secondary research firms that cater to niche markets or specific business functions may emerge, offering expert insights and tailored analysis.


SIS typically uses the following sources of secondary information:

  • General web searching
  • Company web sites
  • Directories and lists
  • Governmental reports
  • Relevant industry and product associations within each country
  • Publications and periodicals specific to relevant industries
  • Analyst and company presentations
  • Industry speeches and conference presentations
  • Any available published reports