Marketing Research: course guide: 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  

Restaurant Association

  Private market research firms   Government data, surveys of customers and manufacturers, news   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. Watson Library provides access to some market research reports via the following databases:

Consumer markets

A database of e-business and online marketing statistics, aggregated and analyzed from over 2,800 sources. Topics include market research and trend analysis on Internet, e-business, online marketing, media and emerging technologies

Contains country reports and industry data on both developed and emerging national markets. Reports include data on market share, market size and sale forecasts. Each report provides qualitative commentary on sales trends, new product and marketing developments, consumer preferences, national company and brand competition and market strategies, and the views and assumptions underlying national sales forecasts.

Covers consumer markets in the UK, US, and many countries in western Europe. Reports contain information on market segmentation, new products, market drivers.... Registration with your Columbia email address is required.


Technology markets


Reports analyze a broad range of technology areas such as new media, computing, software, networking, telecommunications and the Internet, and project how technology trends will affect businesses, consumers, and society.

IT, telecommunications, and consumer technology market research and analyst reports.


These reports are only to be used for academic purposes.