Is Your Primary Research Playing Tricks on You?
It’s fairly black and white: In market research, you can have primary research or secondary research. Secondary research represents the preliminary stage by which you utilize existing data to frame a demographic and learn what you can based on broad-picture factors. But it’s primary data that is the gold standard for market research.
Unless someone has asked the exact same question of the exact same person, primary research is absolutely necessary to get a first-account witness of someone’s opinion; think focus groups or surveys. But relying on one type of primary research might leave gaping holes in your hypothesis. Self-report methods are often favored, but behavioral metrics are necessary to fill in those gaps.
Self Reporting: What Are People Saying?
Self-report data is fairly standard as primary research, and for good reason. Self-report methods like surveys, social media findings, and focus groups are less expensive than getting into the nitty gritty of behavioral metrics. Sending out a survey or gathering a sample for a focus group gives you the opportunity to get into the minds of subjects to gain data and opinions. It’s been done this way for decades, and many market researchers take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” stance on primary research through self-report data.
But self-report data doesn’t always give an accurate reading, particularly when it comes to purchasing products or services. A subject might feel pressured by a focus group setting and become falsely positive. Another subject might take a survey but give inaccurate answers to get to the end faster. While it’s true that these self-report methods are business as usual, you’re only really getting half of the story.
Behavioral Metrics: What are People Doing?
The other portion of primary research (and one sometimes ignored) are behavioral metrics. Some consumers say one thing but do another, and it’s that “doing” that can have the biggest impact on outcome.
Whether it’s buying dish detergent or visiting a favorite social media site, there may be discrepancies between what subjects are saying and what they’re doing and buying. That interference comes from subjects reporting on their own state, which could be falsely positive for any number of reasons. Once you strip down that primary research method and look into how those same subjects are spending their time and money, a new picture can emerge.
Primary & Secondary Research Used Together
It’s why the best primary research method isn’t either/or, but a combination of both. Self-report data is still very necessary, since it allows you to gather information, find out opinions, and offers better insight into your subjects’ mental states. It’s not, however, complete without some type of behavioral metrics that contrast what subjects say to how they act in real-life situations. Research data without both sides of the coin is frankly, incomplete.
Beware of tricky primary research: Without the right combination and methodology, the joke could be on you.