Marketing research is the research that companies do to study consumers and other companies. It seeks to understand the best ways to connect a consumer and a product, with the hopes that the consumer will buy it. This involves evaluating the current marketing already being done for that product, or similar products that are created by the same company, and determining how well the campaigns are working. It also involves studying the marketing techniques of other companies.
In most cases, marketers begin research with a problem or a question, not with the goal of learning more about a particular market. Instead, they want to know why a particular market is doing well, or why it is falling and what can be done to change that. They may also want to know why consumers are not buying some products, but gladly purchasing similar ones. Research is then done to answer the question, and that answer can be turned into a marketing technique that may get better results.
There are two types of marketing research. The first is consumer research, where the goal is to study the purchasing habits of consumers. This can be done by tallying up how much of a product is sold, through surveys or through other means. The information gathered from consumers can be used to analyze current marketing campaigns and to create new ones.
The second type is business to business (B2B) research, which studies how businesses sell products and services to other businesses. For example, Company A sells computer equipment to companies B and C. Someone may be interested in seeing how companies B and C found out about the equipment, how company A marketed its product and how good the market for that product is.
Marketing research is not the same as market research. The first studies how and why consumers and businesses buy, and how those sales can be increased or why they have decreased. It involves in-depth studies into the affect of advertisements and market conditions on consumers. Market research is the research that may be done into a single market, focusing on the size and trends in that market.
As an example, Company A sells kids' cereal. It was once really popular, but now its sales have dropped almost 25% in the past year, and it wants to know why. Marketing research is done to answer this question.
Research reveals that Company B's kids' cereal has seen a substantial jump in sales. The two companies sell a similar product. More research reveals that Company B has added some vitamins to its product, changed the look of the cereal box, and is running advertisements to promote this new "healthier" product. In fact, lots of food companies are developing healthier versions of their products, and they are all selling well. Even non-food products, such as sports equipment and books about healthy living, are seeing an increase in sales.
Based on the results of this research, Company A decides to create a healthier version of its cereal, making it better than, or at least comparable to, Company B's brand. This new cereal is promoted, free samples are given away, and within a few months, sales are better than they were before the drop. Although this is simplified, this example shows what this form of research is and how it works.