Marketers use marketing research to find answers to various questions related to market dynamics, business environment and consumer behaviour.  For this a formal research design plan is created by marketers. But some marketers conduct research without formal plan as well. For example, a hotel owner who asks returning customers what was their experience during their stay at his hotel, is conducting a research without a formal research design.

The major component of research design is to decide which type of marketing research will be best suited for desired objective. Marketing Research can be classified into three categories depending upon the objectives of the research.

Exploratory Research

Exploratory research is used in cases where the marketer has little or no understanding about the research problem due to lack of proper information. For example, a marketer has heard about social media marketing techniques which are employed by their competitors with great success but he is not familiar with using these for his products/services.

He needs to use exploratory market research to gain/discover insights about this situation. Thus when the goal of the marketer is to precisely formulate problems, clear concepts, gain insights, eliminate impractical ideas and form hypotheses then exploratory research is used.

Exploratory research follows and unstructured format and makes use of qualitative techniques, secondary research and experts opinions. For example, the marketer from the previous case can use books, syndicated research, case studies, focus groups, expert interviews and survey techniques to conduct exploratory research.

The results of exploratory research can’t be used for marketing decisions in most cases at least not directly.  Then the question arises why to do exploratory research in the first place? Well the answer is the core goal of exploratory research is to equip marketers with enough information to facilitate marketers plan a format research design correctly. For example by conducting exploratory research the marketer can find out that the competition is using popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to reach target consumers effectively and successfully engaging customers with the brand directly. Now with this information he can plan a formal research design to test his hypothesis.

Descriptive Research

Descriptive research is used to find accurate answers of questions like:

  • Who are users of my products / services?
  • How they are using my products / services?
  • What proportion of population uses my products / services?
  • What is the future demand for my products / services?
  • Who are all my competitors?

Thus descriptive research is used to explain, monitor and test hypotheses created by marketers to help them find accurate answers. Due to this reason descriptive research is rigid, well structure and well planned and uses quantitative techniques like questionnaires, structured interviews, data analysis etc.

For example, the marketer from previous case and use descriptive research to find out if he also starts using social media marketing techniques for promoting his products and services then:

  • How many of his current customers will be attracted to them?
  • How many new customers can be engaged using social media?
  • How much time, effort and money will be involved in this activity?
  • What will be the predicted return on investment (RoI)?
  • Will he be able to attract competitor’s customers?

Causal Research

Causal research is used by marketers to find cause and effect relationship of variables. It is also sometimes referred as “If.. Then…” method. In this type of research, the marketer tries to understand the effects of manipulating independent variable on other dependent variable.

Causal research uses field and laboratory experimentation techniques to achieve its goals. This research is used by marketers mainly to predict and test hypotheses.

Let’s take some test cases where causal research can be used:

  • What will happen to sale of my product if I change the packaging of the product?
  • What will happen to sale of my product if I change the design of the product?
  • What will happen to sale of my product if I change the advertising?

If you like this article and know someone who’s also passionate about market research as you then please share it with them using links given below.

Think I have missed any major insights in this article? Get thee to the comments and let me know. 

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Ambarish is the MD and CEO of NOVONOUS Business Consulting Pvt Ltd, a knowledge management firm. He likes sharing his experiences in the field of Market Research to those who are passionate and like exploring more about this field.

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  1. preeti

    Hi Ambarish,

    Thanks for the article..I’m a market researcher by profession and I think this is a great website to share meaningful marketing research insights..

    1. Sandeep

      i am a commerce graduate..i got a job as a market research interviewer, this the first step…and whats next, should i do MBA or like there are two research qualitative and quaantitative,i don’t know mine is which 1 ?? so i want help 4rm u?

    2. nabi saeedy

      hi Ambarish
      thank u for this useful info
      if it is possible please add the methods of data collection in each the method of research that will be more useful and easy to understand
      Nabi Saeedy.

  2. Ambarish Kumar Verma Article Author

    Sandeep, a formal education can help you hone your conceptual skills as well as give you a better understanding about the applicability of market research in different business scenarios.

    You are currently working in the field level of market research. The data collected by you as an interviewer can be then processed as qualitative data or quantitative data.

    If you wish to make a career in quantitative research then I would suggest you to do a course in statistics.

    1. Ambarish Kumar Verma Article Author

      That really depends on your skills and interest. If you are coming for statistics background and like number crunching you would enjoy quantitative research. If you like meeting new people and interview them then you will enjoy qualitative research more.

      1. Ram

        Hi Ambarish! This is very helpful. I am having an interest in marketing research and your article helped me to give more understanding in a very simplified way. Also, can you share us whats the career path when you want to pursue Marketing Research? I mean what is the level 1 position, level 2, and what is the highest position we can obtain? Thanks a lot!

        1. Ambarish Kumar Verma Article Author

          Hi Ram,
          I am glad that you found this article useful. As far as career path is concerned in market research industry, it depends upon the organization you want to work for. For simplified understanding the growth structure is like Research Associate -> Research Executive -> Senior Research Executive -> Manager -> General Manager -> VP -> CEO/MD. But like I said earlier it can be different for different organizations.

  3. Decy

    I’m making a marketing research paper now. based on my findings, I found there are types of marketing research technique which include store audit and sales force effectiveness. But I can’t find the proper source of them. can anyone help me on this? thanks in advance.

  4. Bukola Osikomaiya

    Hi Mr. Verma,

    Thanks for this great article. It has greatly enhanced my understanding of market research method in a very simplified way. I am Msc. student in Marketing Communication.

  5. saurabh karankar

    Hi Ambarish,

    Above information helped me in understanding type of research. I am an Enterprenuer . I am distributor for Different Test and Measuring Industries. I want to to do a market research for the same to give growth to my firm . This is B2B Industry . I know this Market has lot more potential but need a guidlines for right path.

    I am Also persuing MBA – Marketing and working on Thesis to grow TMI Industry .

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