Market Research

Gather and analyse information from multiple sources to understand and forecast customer behaviours and market movements.
Ivy Simon
Editorial Writer
Gather and analyse information from multiple sources to understand and forecast customer behaviours and market movements.

Market research is all about identifying what people do, think, buy, or believe; and the reasons for those behaviours. It is one of the less-publicised areas of marketing work, but that doesn’t make it any less crucial! Marketing, advertising, and PR professionals rely heavily on the work of market researchers to plan effective marketing and business development strategies.

Market research is used to test new products, assess customer preferences, evaluate competition or identify competitors, and monitor customer (or staff) satisfaction. Market researchers are typically employed by dedicated market research agencies, management consulting firms, government departments, and marketing/advertising agencies. However, some companies – such as those in the consumer goods or manufacturing sectors  ̶  may also employ in-house market research teams.

Life on the job

Depending on whether you work for an external agency or directly under a company, your duties as a market research professional will be slightly different. But in general, you can expect to handle the following responsibilities:

  • Consult and advise clients or stakeholders about research project requirements and objectives
  • Design and create research tools such as interview questionnaires and surveys
  • Perform research fieldwork, including conducting surveys, facilitating focus group interviews, ethnographic analysis, or collating data from other sources (e.g. online analytics providers).
  • Manage research budgets, timeframes, and staff progress
  • Analyse the resulting data and write reports compiling your findings
  • Translating and presenting your findings to clients or stakeholders, advising them on how to use the research findings most effectively

New entrants in this field are typically started out as analysts or research assistants within a market research team, and will learn on the job from there. You will gain a lot of responsibility and freedom early on this line of work, as market researchers are typically given the flexibility to gather relevant data by any means necessary. 

While you might work from a desk, some market researchers will be required to travel for work. This could include visiting clients' workplaces, conducting research in different parts of the country, or occasionally traveling overseas. 

Because of the project-based nature of this work, market research role can be high-pressure and fast-paced. But it is also immensely interesting and gratifying if you’re the kind of inquisitive person who enjoys understanding why people behave the way they do, or seeing how things fit together in a bigger picture across the market.

Most market research jobs are not openly advertised. So networking, speculative applications, or even internship conversions are essential if you want to break into this line of work. 

Required qualifications and skills

Any degree discipline is acceptable for entry into this line of work, although some employers prefer candidates with backgrounds in the social sciences, psychology, marketing, or mathematics/statistics. However, some specialised roles such as industrial market research may require a specialised scientific or technical background.

By and large, you can expect to learn the trade through on-the-job training and experience. However, as you advance up the ladder, you may be required to obtain specialised professional or postgraduate market research qualifications. Make sure you clarify with potential employers if they have any such requirements before accepting a job offer.

Skills-wise, you will need excellent commercial awareness skills, alongside great analytical skills and a strong ability to work with numbers. This type of job isn’t just about crunching data, though. You will also need excellent interpersonal and communication skills in order to present your findings to clients/stakeholders and convince them of your recommendations. 

Lastly, having a relevant knowledge of marketing, sales, and business is crucial too. Remember that you must be able to apply your research findings in those contexts in order to help your client or employer with their promotional or business expansion strategies. In order to obtain the right perspectives, it may be worth pursuing other work experience in marketing or customer-facing roles as a student before making the jump into a market research career.