What is primary market research?

Market research falls into two main categories: primary and secondary. So what is primary market research, exactly? It’s research that you conduct yourself or employ someone to do for you. It involves dealing directly with customers or would-be customers and asking questions or gathering information.

While you can conduct primary market research yourself, it pays to use a market research agency like Acumen. They are experts in the methodology used to conduct primary market research and have skilled fieldworkers and analysts who will be put to work for you.

Whether you’re looking for focus groups, user testing, interviews and observation, or field trials, Acumen can advise and deliver on all forms of primary market testing to meet your needs.

Get in touch today to discuss your product or service with us, and we can advise and quote on the best primary market testing methods.


Primary market research definition

Primary market research is basically new research that a business undertakes itself. By comparison, secondary market research relies on information and data that’s already out there. This may be in the form of reports, studies, company websites and published articles.

Primary research is usually more costly and will often take longer to perform than secondary research. But it normally gives conclusive and trusted results that are tailored specifically to your product, service or area.

To read more about secondary market research, its best uses and benefits, read our guide to types of market research – CLICK HERE.

Primary market research examples

Primary market research can take many forms, and they tend to gather two types of information: specific and explanatory. Here are a few examples, all of which Acumen is highly experienced in leading. Talk to us today if you’d like to commission one of these methods of research:

  • Online surveys
  • Hall tests
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • User testing
  • Observation
  • Product placements in the home (i-HUTs)

While all of the above can be used to gather specific information, focus groups and interviews in particular tend to be used to elicit explanatory information. They are both examples of qualitative market research, where the questions are open and the insights from participants are more in-depth. 

Why use primary market research?

So what are the benefits of primary market research, given that it’s more time consuming and specialised, and costly as a result of both of those factors?

First of all it provides exactly the kind of information that you are looking for, though you may not know what answers and insights will come back. Indeed, one of the drawbacks of primary market research is that the findings can be difficult to gather, quantify and act on.

Let’s look at a case study of some primary market research that Acumen did with the Greater London Authority (GLA) to illustrate these points.

The GLA wanted to understand the accessibility of their employment services and whether certain groups were missing out. They commissioned Acumen for this research, which was done as face-to-face interviews. We went to great lengths to ensure our sample included people from communities who were normally hard to reach. 

Researchers were able to ask a wide range of people directly about GLA’s services. The information that came back was 100{507235cd7bf177eea4c9d7ffa05443f1fb50bb3c683fc377ad5ed86dac05d456} relevant to these services. Gathering data via these interviews, and capturing and analysing the information was far from simple. But the insights gained were used to identify what changes needed to be made to improve access, making the research highly effective. It’s worth adding that we won an industry award for this project! 

Advantages of primary market research

Some other key benefits of primary market research over secondary are that it’s clear where the data has come from because it’s first hand, and you can trust the methodology and findings.

It’s not always clear where secondary market research data has come from and how it’s been conducted. It may be subject to bias, and additionally it may be out of date! Primary market research avoids all those shortcomings because it’s been conducted to your own specifications.

If you work with a market research agency such as Acumen, you also have access to their expert methodology which will side-step issues that can damage research findings. These include poorly crafted questionnaires, leading questions, limited samples that exclude relevant groups, and ‘confirmation bias’ being built into the research.

Acumen also makes use of our own Acumonitor, a bespoke system that validates participants and ensures clients get data from fresh participants who match their criteria. 


Primary research with Acumen

We are committed to maintaining rigorous quality standards and are members of a number of organisations which ensure we always deliver work to the highest standards.

We would love to work with you on all your primary market research needs. We offer a full set of services for quantitative and qualitative market research. Take a closer look below, and get in touch.