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How to: Research Consumer Markets: Getting Started

What is consumer market research?

Consumer market research is the process of gathering data on a consumer goods market (personal-use goods and services such as toothpaste or retail sales). This includes information on the current and potential customers, as well as the competitive landscape of the market.

Primary research involves collecting data from the source (i.e. consumers) such as conducting surveys or focus groups. It can be very targeted, useful, time consuming, labor-intensive, and expensive.

Secondary research involves using data that has already been collected (e.g. statistics or market research reports). Because you do not control how or what data is collected, there may be times where you cannot find the exact type of information you want from secondary sources.

You can kind of think of it as primary research is watching a movie whereas secondary research is reading a review of the movie.

This guide will show you some secondary sources for consumer market research.

Who Collects This Data?

Cost of data   Who collects it?   How do they get it?   Examples
Free or $
  Government, NGOs   Surveys, legal requirements  

Census, UN, International Trade Administration

Free or $
  Regulatory agencies   Reporting requirements   National Credit Union Administration
  Trade associations   Member surveys, government data, news   Telecommunications Industry Association
  Private market research firms   Government data, surveys of customers and manufacturers, news   BCC Research, Frost & Sullivan, Mintel, Nielsen, Gartner


Note that there may be additional information resources depending upon the market or industry you are targeting.  Feel free to email us to find out more. 

Market Research Reports

If you have spent some time searching on the internet for market data, you may have come across some market research reports that will seemingly address all your research needs, however they tend to cost thousands of dollars.  These reports are costly because market research can be very labor intensive work. Cornell is fortunate enough to have access to some market research reports via the following databases:


These reports are only to be used for academic purposes.