Market research firms
Market research firms gather and analyze data about customers, competitors, distributors, and other actors and forces in the marketplace. A large portion of the work performed by most market research firms is commissioned by specific companies for particular purposes. However, some firms also routinely collect a wide spectrum of data and then attempt to sell some or all of it to companies that may benefit from such information. For example, the A.C. Nielsen Co. in the United States specializes in supplying marketing data about consumer television viewing habits, and Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), has an extensive database regarding consumer supermarket purchases.
Marketing research may be quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of both. Quantitative research is numerically oriented, requires significant attention to the measurement of market phenomena, and often involves statistical analysis. For example, when a restaurant asks its customers to rate different aspects of its service on a scale from 1 (good) to 10 (poor), this provides quantitative information that may be analyzed statistically. Qualitative research focuses on descriptive words and symbols and usually involves observing consumers in a marketing setting or questioning them about their product or service consumption experiences. For example, a marketing researcher may stop a consumer who has purchased a particular type of detergent and ask why that detergent was chosen. Qualitative and quantitative research each provides different insights into consumer behaviour, and research results are ordinarily more useful when the two methods are combined.
Market research can be thought of as the application of scientific method to the solution of marketing problems. It involves studying people as buyers, sellers, and consumers, examining their attitudes, preferences, habits, and purchasing power. Market research is also concerned with the channels of distribution, with promotion and pricing, and with the design of the products and services to be marketed.