In this article, we take a look at desk research (a.k.a. secondary research) and why it can be a valuable part of an effective market research strategy. We also give practical pointers to help you get the most from this approach.
As a quick recap, there are two types of market research:
Primary research: the gathering of fresh data, through unique research projects.
Secondary research is the analysis of information from a wide range of existing sources such as published reports, company information etc.
Primary research can be costly and time consuming and whilst it does have an important role to play, may not always be necessary. Often information is already available that can provide key insights and help determine where primary research should be focused for greatest impact.
The analysis of existing information through secondary research has a number of benefits:
It provides fast, credible background insights
Far less expensive to implement than primary research
Adds context and depth to primary research findings
Increases the focus and ROI of primary research
Useful information sources
The information available to researchers is located across a whole range of resources and includes both free and paid subscription sources. Depending on your industry or purpose, sources can include:
Government statistics and published reports
Industry commentary by the leading consultancy firms
Published company information such as annual reports, accounts and SEC filings
Research and reports by professional and industry bodies
Public and paid for market research reports, databases and industry statistics
Articles, opinion pieces and blogs
The British Library and similar places give access to hard-to-find information and sources that would otherwise require a paid subscription to access.
General internet search
Finding information is only part of the challenge. A disciplined approach is needed to evaluate and prioritise information sources before they are used, in particular:
Date of publication: This is particularly relevant in fast moving markets where up to date information is critical.
Source: The credibility of the author is a key factor in assessing potential sources. In general, published reports have more authority than opinion pieces.
Consistency: Where possible, multiple information sources should be used to see if similar findings emerge. There have been many cases where the ‘lone voice’ has been proved to be the correct one, but generally this should be viewed with a degree of caution or an aspect to investigate further.
Whilst desk research is a very useful tool, it does have its limitations, in particular:
Desk research is limited to what is available and may therefore, only provide partial answers, either in terms of the precision or the timeliness of information.
Information availability and quality can vary considerably by industry and geography.
Information can be hard to find and often require a lot of effort before a ‘gold nugget’ is found.
Public information, so we need to be aware of any potential bias.
In many cases, a hybrid approach works extremely well, pairing desk research with a small number of interviews with industry experts. This is a cost-effective solution to capitalise on the benefits of desk research as well as delivering specific insights.
Find out more
Our experienced team of desk researchers have a proven track record of delivering high quality, actionable information for UK and international markets.
For more information about our full range of research services please visit our website. Alternatively, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.
+44 (0)115 7270321
We appreciate you taking the time out to read our blog. We hope that it proves useful in making your market research budget go that much further.