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Market Research

Overview

Companies that sell products and services learn more about their current customers and target audiences through market research. They also use market research to learn more about their business reputation, brands, and other aspects of their organization. The definition of market research, according to Entrepreneur.com is: “The process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present, and potential customers for the product or service; research into the characteristics, spending habits, location, and needs of your business’s target market, the industry as a whole, and the particular competitors you face.”

Among the first steps in the business planning process is market research. Companies use it to help tackle such challenges as market segmentation, which is the identification of specific groups within a market, or product differentiation, the creation of an identity for a service or product to distinguish it from that of competitors. Market research companies gather, record, tabulate, and present data on marketing and public opinions. The services that market research companies offer include sampling and statistical services, broadcast media rating services, market analysis services, and political polling. Market research is conducted by telephone, e-mail, social media, snail mail, and face-to-face research (such as focus groups).

Jobs in the market research industry are found in market research agencies and at advertising agencies with market research capabilities. Many organizations also have their own marketing departments. The types of jobs in the field include research director or manager, research analyst, operations director, fieldwork manager, and statistician/data processing workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 506,420 market research analysts and specialists were employed in the United States in May 2015. They worked for management, scientific, and technical consulting services; wholesale trade companies; finance and insurance companies, among others. Most people who work in market research work in a team and collaborate on projects for clients.

According to the research group IBISWorld, the U.S. market research industry generates $20 billion in revenue annually. There was .4 percent annual growth in the industry between 2011 and 2016. The industry has experienced slow, steady growth the past few years, and growth is expected to speed up in the coming years due to stronger corporate profits and more market research opportunities online and with social media. There are approximately 41,373 market research businesses in the United States.

The marketing industry is relatively young compared to other industries. It got its start in the early 1900s, when people started to take interest in the relationship between sellers and buyers. By the 1950s, fierce competition between companies had created a climate of aggressive selling without consideration of customers’ wants and needs. Companies realized this tactic was wearing thin on customers, and that the best way to have efficient, cost-effective operations was to understand customers better. This is when the marketing concept originated, which is the philosophy that companies should first analyze their customers’ needs and then any decisions they make should aim to meet them.

Uppers
  • The market research industry is resilient. Whether the economy is weak or strong, companies will always need market research to help them improve their business reputation, enhance their relationship with their customers, and increase their revenue.
  • Clients may have interesting projects for market researchers, depending on their specialty. The work may be for a long-established company that is looking for exciting ways to reach new customers. Or it may be conducting voter profiles for a political candidate.
  • Market researchers who work on the client side, such as in marketing departments for retailers, manufacturers, or governmental agencies, have opportunities to expand their skills and knowledge through collaboration with other departments. For example, they may work on projects with I.T., human resources, or sales.
  • The work is intellectually stimulating and market researchers learn something new every day. Curious-minded people who enjoy digging for facts thrive in this type of work. There are also opportunities to work as part of a team or independently, or a mixture of both.
  • Companies and consumers respect the market research profession. The work that market researchers do is valued. People pay attention to their research findings and analysis. And based on their reports, companies often use market researchers’ recommendations to improve their business operations.
Downers
  • Depending on the job, the work can be sedentary. For instance, market research analysts spend a lot of time sitting in front of computers, studying numbers, and creating reports and charts.
  • There is now more research and data available online than ever before. The information can be overwhelming, and yet it’s the market researcher’s job to study all of that data and determine what is most relevant to the client’s needs. Strong analytical and math skills are required for this type of work.
  • The hours can be long. Most market research professionals work full-time business hours, but when there are tight deadlines and projects need to be turned around quickly, they put in the extra hours. This often means working evening hours, weekends, and sometimes during holidays.
  • Some market research jobs offer limited exposure to the client. The American Marketing Association explains that many market research professionals get their start by working for research supplier companies. External clients contract these research firms to help them with surveys, concept tests, segmentations, and other types of research work. The downfall is that, because this is contract work, market researchers don’t often see the full effect of their work on the company’s business.
  • Some market research jobs, particularly qualitative market researchers, require travel. When there is a lot of work to do and deadlines are tight, travel is not always a positive part of the work experience. Organizational and time management skills are critical to succeeding in this career.