What is marketing research process – You probably can’t think of a company that doesn’t do any kind of marketing. All companies — no matter what — make efforts to reach as many customers as possible and convince them to purchase their products and subscribe to their services. They use various tools and strategies, including advertising via radio, television, billboards, magazines and the Internet. Online marketing is gaining more and more popularity because it saves your money on printing paper catalogs, magazines or newspapers ads and requires less human resources than traditional methods of business promotion.

What Is Marketing Research Process Marketing serves as a bridge between your organization and its customers. It helps you understand the requirements and preferences of these customers, as also to understand the competition. 

Step 1: Problem Definition

Define the problem and research objectives. The first step in any marketing research study is to define the problem, while taking into account the purpose of the study, the relevant background information, what information is needed, and how it will be used in decision making. This stage involves discussion with the decision makers, interviews with industry experts, analysis of secondary data, and, perhaps, some qualitative research, such as focus groups. There are three types of objectives that can be deployed in marketing research:

A series of question marks.

What’s the Problem?: The first stage of the marketing research process involves defining the problem.

1. Exploratory research

  • Used to better define a problem or scout opportunities.
  • In-depth interviews and discussions groups are commonly used.

2. Descriptive research

  • Used to assess a situation in the marketplace (i.e., potential for a specific product or consumer attitudes).
  • Methods include personal interviews and surveys.

3. Causal research

  • Used for testing cause and effect relationships.
  • Typically through estimation.

Plan the Research Design

The research design is a framework or blueprint for conducting the marketing research project.

Step 2 Statement of Research Objectives:

After identifying and defining the problem with or without explanatory research, the researcher must take a formal statement of research objectives. Such objectives may be stated in qualitative or quantitative terms and expressed as research questions, statement or hypothesis. For example, the research objective, “To find out the extent to which sales promotion schemes affected the sales volume” is a research objective expressed as a statement.

On the other hand, a hypothesis is a statement that can be refuted or supported by empirical finding. The same research objective could be stated as, “To test the proposition that sales are positively affected by the sales promotion schemes undertaken this winter.”

Example of another hypothesis may be: “The new packaging pattern has resulted in increase in sales and profits.” Once the objectives or the hypotheses are developed, the researcher is ready to choose the research design.

Step 3: Research Design Formulation

A research design is a framework or blueprint for conducting the marketing research project. It details the procedures necessary for obtaining the required information, and its purpose is to design a study that will test the hypotheses of interest, determine possible answers to the research questions, and provide the information needed for decision making. Decisions are also made regarding what data should be obtained from the respondents (e,g,, by conducting a survey or an experiment). A questionnaire and sampling plan also are designed in order to select the most appropriate respondents for the study. The following steps are involved in formulating a research design:

  • Secondary data analysis (based on secondary research)
  • Qualitative research
  • Methods of collecting quantitative data (survey, observation, and experimentation)
  • Definition of the information needed
  • Measurement and scaling procedures
  • Questionnaire design
  • Sampling process and sample size
  • Plan of data analysis
A man and woman look at a book in a library.

Conducting Secondary Research: Secondary data analysis is one of the steps involved in formulating a research design.

Developing the research plan for collecting information:

The research plan outlines sources of existing data and spells out the specific research approaches, contact methods, sampling plans, and instruments that researchers will use to gather data. This plan includes a written proposal that outlines the management problem, research objectives, information required, how the results will help management decisions, and the budget allocated for the research.

Collecting Data
This step revolved around obtaining the information that you will need to solve the issue or problem identified.  Data collection involves a field force or staff that operates either in the field, as in the case of personal interviewing (in-home, mall intercept, or computer-assisted personal interviewing), from an office by telephone (telephone or computer-assisted telephone interviewing), or through the mail (traditional mail and mail panel surveys with recruited households).

Step 4: Field Work or Data Collection

Field work, or data collection, involves a field force or staff that operates either in the field, as in the case of personal interviewing (focus group, in-home, mall intercept, or computer-assisted personal interviewing), from an office by telephone (telephone or computer-assisted telephone interviewing/CATI), or through mail (traditional mail and mail panel surveys with pre-recruited households). Proper selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of the field force helps minimize data-collection errors. In marketing research, an example of data collection is when a consumer goods company hires a market research company to conduct in-home ethnographies and in-store shop-alongs in an effort to collect primary research data.

Soliders sit around a table during a focus group.

Focus Group: Soldiers and their family members participate in focus groups.

Marketing Research is Systematic and Objective

  • Systematic planning is required at all stages of the marketing research process, especially in the data collection step. The procedures followed at each stage are methodologically sound, well documented, and, as much as possible, planned in advance. Marketing research uses the scientific method in that data are collected and analyzed to test prior notions or hypotheses.
  • Marketing research aims to provide accurate information that reflects a true state of affairs and thus, should be conducted impartially. While research is always influenced by the researcher’s philosophy, it should be free from the personal or political biases of the researcher or the management. This is especially important in the data collection phase. The data collected will be analysed and used to make marketing decisions. Hence, it is vital that the data collection process be free of as much bias as possible.

Primary Versus Secondary Research

There are many sources of information a marketer can use when collecting data. The Nielsen Ratings is an audience measurement system that provides data on audience size and the composition of television markets in the United States. The Gallup Polls conduct public opinion polls with its results published daily in the form of data driven news. The U.S Census Bureau, directed by the U.S. Government is the principal agency that is responsible for producing data about American people and the economy. Population, housing and demographic characteristics are gathered to help plan and define transportation systems, police and fire precinct, election districts and schools.

Analyzing Data

Data Analysis is an important step in the Marketing Research process where data is organized, reviewed, verified, and interpreted.

Step 5: Data Preparation and Analysis

Analysis of data is a process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of highlighting useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision making. Data analysis has multiple facets and approaches, encompassing diverse techniques under a variety of names in different business, science, and social science domains. Data mining is a particular data analysis technique that focuses on modeling and knowledge discovery for predictive rather than purely descriptive purposes. Marketers use databases to extract applicable information that identifies customer patterns, characteristics and behaviors.

Notes on a dry erase board.

Data Analysis: Taking notes is an important part of data analysis and testing parameters.

Business intelligence covers data analysis that relies heavily on aggregation and focusing on business information. In statistical applications, some people divide data analysis into descriptive statistics, exploratory data analysis (EDA), and confirmatory data analysis (CDA). EDA focuses on discovering new features in the data and CDA focuses on confirming or falsifying existing hypotheses. Predictive analytics focuses on application of statistical or structural models for predictive forecasting or classification. Text analytics applies statistical, linguistic, and structural techniques to extract and classify information from textual sources, a species of unstructured data. All are varieties of data analysis.

A group of people sit around a table during a meeting.

Meeting: Researchers can set up a debriefing meeting to review the analysis.

During this phase of the research process, data is carefully edited, coded, transcribed, and verified in order for it to be properly analyzed. Statistical market research tools are used. The validity of the results is also assessed to confirm how well the data measures what it is supposed to measure. Oftentimes, the research team will arrange a debriefing session with the client to review highlights from the data and brainstorm potential ideas on how the findings can be implemented. This typically happens when a client hires a market research company and they want to remain thoroughly involved in the research process.

A diagram that shows the data analysis outputs for the Illumina BeadChip and BeadXpress reader - heat map, bar plots, and scatter plots.

Data Output: Types of data analysis outputs include a heat map, bar plots, and scatter plots.

Helpful tips to keep in mind during data analysis:

  • Communicate the results.
  • Try to avoid bias when interpreting data.
  • Just because results fail to confirm original hypotheses, does not mean the research results are useless.

Developing Insights and an Action Plan

A successful presentation provides conclusions (based on the insights gathered) that effectively meet the objectives of the research.

Step 6: Report Preparation & Presentation

During the Report Preparation & Presentation step, the entire project should be documented in a written report that addresses the specific research questions identified; describes the approach, the research design, data collection, and data analysis procedures adopted; and presents the results and the major findings. This permanent document is also helpful because it can be easily referenced by others who may not have been part of the research.

The findings should be presented in a comprehensible format so that they can be readily used in the decision making process. In addition, an oral presentation should be made to management using tables, figures, and graphs to enhance clarity and impact.

A man gives a presentation and discusses information on a dry erase board.

Presentation: Report preparation and presentation is the sixth step in the market research process.

A successful presentation will include but is not limited to the following elements:

  • Final conclusions (based on the insights gathered from data collected) that effectively meet the initial objectives of the research
  • Recommendations about how to apply the research
  • Charts, graphs, and visual elements that help showcase important facts and make the presentation easily digestible and memorable

A formal research report presentation typically includes the following:

  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Background
  • Research Objectives
  • Research Methodology
  • Highlights of Fieldwork Data Collected
  • Appendix (including Respondent Screening Instrument and Questionnaire)
  • Findings/Insights
  • Recommendations/Implications and Action Plan


Marketing research is the same in name only with Marketing. It can be very tough and difficult to understand for people who come from a non-marketing background. If you go through this article and grasp the right meaning you will be able to make up your mind about what is marketing research process.

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