How to Utilize Secondary Market Research

In a previous post, we touched on secondary market research, but didn’t go into depth. This one will clarify what it is, why it’s valuable and what to do with it!


Our other post focused on primary market research––including what it is, the methods used, and both the advantages and disadvantages of using it as a data source. As a quick summary, primary market research is a form of research where data is collected, analyzed, and interpreted through an organization’s internal efforts. This can be through a dedicated department or outsourced to an external research agency. Secondary market research is a bit of a wild card, offering exciting, unexpected intel, assuming you know where to look!

What is Secondary Market Research?

Let us begin by understanding secondary market research. It applies to data obtained externally to solve internal research problems. It is also referred to as desk research to signify its lack of involvement with the field i.e. data collection.

There are obvious limitations to doing research this way, the most important concern being its lack of specificity and seeming misalignment with expected outcomes. It often does not present a simple 1:1 correlation with defined research topics and stretches both the scope of the project and the understanding of participants. And this can cause discomfort.

However, businesses take this approach for a number of good reasons. When they are dealing with a broad research question, secondary market research is the more accurate way to answer it. For instance, if you wanted to know how ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors affect your industry, looking at credible research data from the past two decades and analyzing it in the context of your vertical would be more efficient than commissioning an independent study of data you’ve captured internally. The scope may feel massive (and it is), but the insight found within could revolutionize your offering, as you identify emerging trends and themes that you’d never consider otherwise:

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Secondly, there are already established entities whose job is to conduct and publish research. They are known to be credible and are governed by regulations as well as self-interest that should bolster trust in their processes and their results. If existing research data from these sources applies to your research problem, why wouldn’t you use it? All you have to do is look and be prepared to sort through it rapidly.

Thirdly, with the advances made in the research technology sector since the advent of the internet age, businesses are not only confident of it but heavily reliant on secondary market research, particularly as this includes historical insight captured and stored on the social web. We’ll touch on this in our “source” subhead below, but know that this subset is significant and merely one of many to incorporate in your research!

Today, insight can be analyzed with powerful AI-driven plug-and-play technology where you can remain oblivious of the backend of things and just concern yourself with the information on the screen. And thank good goodness for that, as the secondary market research data sources are legion. Let’s take a look!

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Sources of Secondary Market Research Data

When you have an angle to attack your research problem, you know the kind of secondary research data that you need. There are various credible places to look for it – and if it can be found, it can likely be scraped and uploaded for analysis. These include:

1. Government agencies

Most government agencies conduct and publish research outlining the socio-economic structure of the country. It allows the citizens to understand their nation better and make decisions that contribute to its growth. It’s also a rich source of credible secondary data if you know where to look.

In the US, demographic data can be found at the US Census Bureau, industry data on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and more on the US Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission. Around the world, government sites include the EU’s European Commission website, the UK’s Office for National Statistics, and global resources such as United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), World Trade Organization (WTO), and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). And there are endless niche agencies around the world publishing relevant insight that touches every market and category.

2. Commercial sources

In this category are all non-governmental research organizations. Since they are usually for profit, their reports may be gated (accessible upon registration) or they may charge a fee for them. However, there is plenty of secondary data released by these organizations for free as well.

Some of the largest and oldest research organizations today are Pew Research Center, Gartner, Nielsen, Forrester, McKinsey & Company, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Boston Consulting Group, and Accenture. Some of these are consulting firms that have incorporated research into their business because it is necessary for the work they do. The list is not exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start your search!

3. Academic and scientific publications

It would be worrisome if academia and the scientific community didn’t feature in this list. Luckily, they do, and heavily so. Academic and scientific institutions are some of the most prolific sources of secondary market research data. Academia conducts research because it is driven by the quest for knowledge and science has a similar motivation: to find answers (hence solutions) to current problems.

The most authoritative research institutions include MIT, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and Georgia Institute of Technology.

4. Web mining

Web mining is the process of accessing and extracting information from web documents, services, and platforms. When you perform a Google search, web mining returns the results in a particular order. The same goes for your daily dose of news from around the world, and certainly for a large array of marketing activities.

In this category you find companies like NetBase Quid® and Rival IQ that search the social, news and media web based on set parameters to bring back relevant data. The main distinction between this source and the other three is that it gives you control over your secondary market research. And when combined with the ability to bring it all together into one place for analysis, which can be done via our integrations or Intelligence Connector capabilities, you have the most powerful secondary market research analyses options on your side.

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Advantages of Secondary Market Research

Besides allowing you to find the information you need while seated, desk research has a number of advantages that make it an appealing approach to businesses of all sizes.

1. Data is readily available

Secondary market research data already exists by the time you need it. Having the data collection portion of research done for you is a great time saver, not to mention the money. This can mean a lot especially to small and mid-sized businesses that don’t always have a budget to conduct primary market research.

2. Research is quicker

Desk research is much quicker than field research. In the former, you just need to gather the necessary reports and look through them to find relevant information. This means your decision making is also quicker, which might be the difference between success and failure in the fast-paced modern business environment.

3. Identifying research gaps is easy

One of the greatest hurdles to deal with in research is a gap that you don’t even know exists. This is equivalent to working with incomplete data. If you have no idea that it’s missing you might go ahead to draw false conclusions and thereafter poor business decisions. With secondary market research, it is easy to identify such gaps and address them – or at least be aware. You aren’t recreating the wheel, you’re applying a different lens to it.

4. Costs are lower

Whether measured in time or money spent, the total costs of conducting secondary market research are much lower compared to primary research. Half of the sources of secondary data noted above are always free i.e. government and academia/science. Of the remaining two, commercial sources are mostly free. Web mining comes with a cost, but it typically pays for itself as it allows control over the research – and the ROI of accurate research is always financially beneficial long-term..

Disadvantages of Secondary Market Research

With the advantages of secondary market research come disadvantages. These might deter some businesses from this approach, but most learn how to minimize them and make up for the limitations with primary market research.

1. You have little to no control over the research

Since the research is not tailored to your specific research problem, it might not be enough to answer it. To ensure this limitation doesn’t sabotage your research, be well aware of the research methodology as explained by the researcher. This can help ease your mind if you determine that the standards have been kept. As mentioned, web mining is the only source of secondary data allowing some level of control over the research.

2. Information may be out of date

While the publisher and the report might be credible enough, sometimes the information stops being true because it is out of date. It is up to you to know what information is acceptable to your problem. Research reports are usually dated. Moreover, the quantitative data will likely have constant references to the research period.

3. It is difficult to verify

The timeliness and cost advantages of secondary research weaken if you have to verify every bit of information contained in your sources. To keep those advantages, you have to trust that the research, analysis, and reporting were done properly. These are a lot of assumptions to make, but if you obtain your data from authoritative sources you may be more comfortable giving the benefit of doubt

4. It is also available to the competition

Here, secondary market research loses big to primary research. Having information that your competition doesn’t possess can give you a significant advantage in the market. However, with secondary research, there is a great chance that you both have the same information. To get a leg up, you have to rely on your ability to derive deeper insights than your competition and have better opportunities to apply them.

Secondary market research goes hand-in-hand with primary market research. Where one fails, the other picks up, ensuring that business is never stuck with unsolvable research problems. NetBase Quid® and Rival IQ were built to do just that: Help you solve your research problems using cutting edge technology. If you would like to see how this works, reach out for demo today and we will be happy to show you.



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