1. Overview

Market research is about gathering information to help you make better decisions. This section explains the different ways to gather that information and helps you identify which approach to use and when to use it.

2. Types of market research

Market research is about gathering information to help you make better decisions. Information can be in the form of numbers and statistics – quantitative - or can be based on attitudes and opinions - qualitative. The type of information you want will depend on the questions you want answers to.

There are 2 main ways to gather information. The first is primary research, which you conduct yourself, and the second is secondary or desk research, which is information that has already been published.

This guide explains where to get the information and which techniques to use to get it.

This BOSS course is also useful for understanding the importance of Market research, and what factors can influence sales.

(BOSS Digital courses created by Business Wales to support starting and running a business. Sign in/Registration is required).

3. Secondary (Desk) Research

Secondary research is using information that has already been collected and published by someone else. This is why it is often known as Desk Research.

Secondary research is a great place to start. There is a mass of information available, covering market size, market trends, consumer spending patterns and market growth predictions. But take care, with so much information available you need to be clear about what you want and plan where you are going to search.

Sources of information

Here are some of the wide range of sources you can consider. Many of these sources are free, but be aware that there can be a cost for some of these reports. Often if there is a charge, you can access an initial synopsis of the information free-of-charge.

and directories such as:

  • Trade associations and specialist trade publications
    • Search for what is relevant in your sector

4. Primary (Field) Research

Primary research is research that you can do yourself, gathering data first hand from customers or competitors. This is why it is often referred to as Field Research.

This is about filling the gaps in the information you have gathered and finding out what your potential customers think about the market you are operating in, your products or services and those of your competitors.

You can use surveys and questionnaires to establish numerical information. For example, 36% of your target audience think this or think that.

You can observe what people actually do or how they react to a product – rather than what they say they will do.

Focus groups and in-depth interviews can be used to get more detailed information about attitudes and what people think about your products and services.

Surveys and questionnaires

This is one of the most useful and cost-effective tools available for finding out what potential customers think about your products and services.

Here are some tips for creating surveys and questionnaires:

  • keep the survey short
  • avoid jargon or language that your respondents are unlikely to understand
  • arrange questions in a logical order, starting with easy-to-answer questions
  • be careful not to ask leading questions, that is, questions that can lead respondents to give a particular answer
  • use a variety of different styles of questions.

Here are examples of some of the styles of question you could consider:

Closed questions require a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer and give you facts. For example, ‘Do you buy this sort of product?’

Open questions invite a longer answer and are used to get more information or to find out what the respondent thinks about something. For example, ‘Why is it this (particular feature of this product) is important to you?’

Multiple choice questions are used when you want to direct respondents to select one answer from a range of alternatives, for example:

Which age range are you in?
1 Under 18 years
2 18 to 30 years
3 31 to 50 years
4 Over 50 years


Rating questions are used to get respondents to rate or grade their responses – against a specific statement, for example:

The quality I received was
1 Excellent
2 Very Good
3 Good
4 Poor
5 Very Poor


This type of question can also be used to discover the degree of agreement or disagreement with a statement, for example,

Please rate each of the following statements on a scale of 1 - 5 where 1 is ‘strongly agree’ and 5 is ‘strongly disagree’.
Shopping online is quick and easy 1 2 3 4 5
I think shopping online saves time   1 2 3 4 5
Prices online are lower than in the shops 1 2 3 4 5


Use this template to make a note of the key questions you want to ask (MS Word 14kb).

Creating surveys and questionnaires

Always make sure you test your questionnaire with people you know, before doing it with your target audience. Firstly, this helps to ensure people understand the questions and the instructions. Secondly, it is useful to check to make sure you are asking the right questions to get the information you are looking for.

Surveys can be done in person (face-to-face), by telephone, by post, via email or online. There are advantages and disadvantages with each of these methods and you should consider who your audience is, cost, time-scale, flexibility and potential response rates before selecting which method to use.

Online surveys, such as SurveyMonkey are becoming increasingly popular. They are low cost (often free-of-charge for short surveys with a small number of respondents), get good response rates (depending on your target audience) and the online programmes provide help and support to guide you through the structure of the overall survey and in creating individual questions. However, there is no personal interaction with your respondents and you and your respondents must be familiar with and comfortable using computers.

Deciding how many people to survey

It is important that you survey enough people for your survey results to be valid. There are many different selection techniques and no single answer regarding how many people you need to interview.

The key issues to consider are the budget and time you have available and how accurate you want the results to be. In general, the larger the sample, the higher the probability that your results will be accurate.

Your Business Wales business adviser can help you decide what is right for you.


Next: Planning & Using Your Market Research