Market researchers are responsible for collecting information which can be used to advance the business aims of companies, governments, and charities. Consumer opinions are analysed by market researchers and data is collated and assessed in order for patterns and trends to be discovered.
Market researchers systematically gather and analyse information about consumers, the market, and competition which a particular company may be facing. Businesses of all sizes, along with charities and the government, use the results of market research to create business plans and decide which products or services should be created and subsequently launched. Companies may also decide to enter a new market depending upon the results of the research.
Market researchers may choose to collect either primary or secondary data. Primary data may involve interviews or observations, which will usually be focussed upon a particular product or service. Secondary data is generally less specific and may be easier to collect, since other researchers have done the hard work by collecting the initial information, as well as recording it. However, secondary data usually proves to be slightly less desirable for companies who employ the services of market researchers, since it may be less applicable to a particular product or service.
The information gathered by market researchers will either be qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative data focuses upon individual motivations and attitudes and market researchers may use techniques such as in-depth interviews to collect information of this nature. Conversely, quantitative data will allow market researchers to assess more general trends and consumer patterns. Techniques including large-scale questionnaires may be used in an attempt to collect quantitative data.
Market researchers may specialise in one area, such as social research. Many market researchers are employed by large companies, charities, or the government but most work for specialist agencies which solely focus upon collecting research and data. The gender ratio in market research is fairly balanced, although (as with many jobs) men tend to hold the more senior positions.
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Individuals starting out in market research can expect to earn approximately £19,000, although this figure could be as high as £24,000. After a few years’ worth of experience, market researchers can expect to earn between £28,000 and £35,000. Senior market researchers with a significant amount of experience may earn between £45,000 and £80,000.
Since many market researchers work for large companies, additional benefits are common. These benefits may include access to a company car, medical insurance, general financial bonuses, and gym membership.
The typical tasks performed by a market researcher include:
- Meeting with clients to discuss the particular areas they wish to be researched and analysed
- Researching these specific areas prior to starting the actual market research process
- Preparing plans and timetables for the data collection and analysis
- Liaising with the client to check that the plans and proposals are satisfactory
- Writing questionnaires and creating other techniques which will be used to gather information
- Distributing questionnaires and surveys
- Ensuring that interviewers and other researchers are fully briefed
- Setting up focus groups
- Observing people in their natural environment in order to collect qualitative data
- Analysing the information obtained through the research
- Using computers to assess the information
- Identifying patterns and trends
- Writing reports on the results of the research
- Presenting the results of the research to the client
- Advising the clients about how best to use the results
Individuals wishing to enter the field of market research will not need to hold any specific qualifications. However, most market researchers hold a degree or a higher national diploma. Because market researchers will need to have a good knowledge of both quantitative and qualitative techniques, degrees in subjects including mathematics, economics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology will be particularly useful for potential applicants to hold.
Many market researchers choose to study for qualifications once they have secured a job. Some larger market research agencies offer courses for employees, whilst some refer their employees to external societies and associations. The Market Research Society offers several short courses designed for professional market researchers and the Chartered Institute of Marketing allows employees to gain one of numerous qualifications.
Market researchers will need to possess the following skills:
- Good interpersonal skills
- Good communication skills
- Good numeracy and literacy skills
- Good analytical skills
- The ability to see patterns and trends
- Competence with computers and statistical models
- An interest in human behaviour
- Business awareness and knowledge of different markets
- The ability to work well as part of a team
- The ability to motivate other members of a team
- Problem-solving skills and the ability to remain flexible
Most of the work carried out by market researchers is done in an office environment. Market researchers rely heavily upon computer programmes and models to help them assess data and, as such, a lot of time is spent behind the desk. However, market researchers will sometimes have to travel across the country, and sometimes to other countries, in order to meet with potential clients and collect data and information.
Most market researchers work between the hours of 9 and 5 but evening and weekend work may be necessary during busy times. The job can be stressful at times, especially when market researchers are faced with impending deadlines. However, most market researchers enjoy their roles and believe they are providing an invaluable service.
Experience in marketing will look impressive on any application form but it is not essential. Any previous experience of researching or analysing data will come in handy, as will any position which has allowed you to display your good interpersonal and communication skills. If you are still at school or currently studying for a degree, try contacting a market research agency to ask for work experience or the opportunity to shadow an employee.
Most market researchers work for large market research agencies, which provide services for large businesses, advertising agencies, PR agencies, charities, and government organisations. These market research agencies may be very large or they may be relatively small and specialise in just one area of research. Large companies may employ market researchers. These include companies involved in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, retail, and advertising.
Government departments also employ market researchers directly, rather than paying for the services of an external market researcher working for an agency. The Government Statistical Service relies upon market researchers to collate and analyse statistical data on a wide range of subjects.
If individuals impress during the first few years in their position, promotions are likely to be offered. Market researchers may become research executives, senior researchers, or directors of research. As the importance of the position increases, the amount of work undertaken outside the office decreases. Individuals are less likely to conduct qualitative and quantitative research and will instead focus upon team management and important contact with clients.
Market researchers may decide to move from large agencies to smaller, more specialised agencies, or between government departments. Opportunities to work in foreign offices are also available, particularly with larger companies which have numerous offices located across the world.
Also known as…
- Research executives
- Marketing executives
What’s it really like?
Jason Green, aged 40, has been a market researcher for ten years.
Before this he was a mature student studying German at the University of London. A typical day at work for Jason depends very much on which phase of the project he is involved in at the time. These stages progress from preparation, fielding, and evaluation, up to the final stage of presentation. However, his typical working day as a market researcher sees him prepare and check data and results collected for clients. Jason also takes part in team briefings and updates status reports on a regular basis.
As a market researcher Jason loves finding out what makes consumers tick. He revels in trying to understand the factors that make customers loyal to a particular supplier and discovering what factors encourage customers to change to other rival suppliers. Market research can be a very challenging career but Jason enjoys the difficult side of the job: discovering unusual and entirely unexpected trends in customer behaviour, whilst challenging, also makes the job extremely stimulating for Jason.
Jason enjoys investigating the integrity of quantitative data or to quote him, “putting it under the microscope”. He also finds it interesting discussing qualitative data with his fellow colleagues and presenting the findings to clients. The only downside to the job that Jason could think of was the amount of time spent in front of a computer during a typical working day.
Jason was keen to offer some words of wisdom to individuals considering applying to become market researchers. Knowledge of statistics and statistical models, competent presentation skills, and an eye for detail will give you a good head start. Most important of all though, paying attention to detail is essential at all times during the market research process. Employees should never look at survey data with any preconceptions in mind and they should always double check all results and conclusions. With regards to deadlines, Jason feels that market researchers should keep them realistic, since no client will appreciate the results of research not being delivered on time.
He pointed out that the other most important skills for market researchers include the ability to summarise coherently, the ability to describe presented information in graphic form, and the ability to visualise statistical data. Competence with a second language has also proved invaluable to Jason throughout his career as a market researcher since it has enabled him to work on international projects.
Jason also had advice for individuals who want to progress to the position of project manager. For this role it is important to hold good communication skills and to be able to interact comfortably with clients, colleagues and interview teams.
With regards to career progression, Jason has no definite plans but was quick to point out the numerous opportunities for rapid promotion, including to managerial positions, particularly within large agencies.