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5 Kinds of Market Research Firms: Which is Right for You?

5 Kinds of Market Research Firms: Which is Right for You?

Is aggregated data enough, or is custom research necessary?
Will engaging a specialized or a full-service research firm best suit our business objectives?
How do we know if our product/service is market-ready?
How can our product/service experience better traction once in the field?
Can existing data from past research be gleaned for new insights?

There are many questions when embarking on a marketing research journey, and the diversity of research firms can make it difficult to choose the right partner. We’ve compiled a helpful guide to enable brands, consultants, strategists and marketers alike to find the firm or firm services that best suit their needs. While by no means comprehensive, this summary of five types of market research firms should guide your pursuit of the right partner and deliver insights for better business impact

Research Report Purveyors

Research report purveyors compile or aggregate information on specific industries, trends, demographics, and other market phenomena that are likely to be of interest to others in the business community. Then, they make their final reports available online for purchase. This syndicated research approach means that the original study was self-funded based on key indications that the particular field of interest will be pertinent to many buyers. 

  • Pros: Instant access to valuable information; smaller reports may be available to augment base study
  • Cons: Information is not tailored to individual business needs; can still be relatively expensive; public access to data means competitive advantage may not be possible based on this preliminary data
  • Best For: Firms seeking broad market information with limited time and money to conduct custom research; Feasibility or use case statistics to determine size of need within a niche market or key demographic

Field Service Firms

Field service firms focus on data collection, meaning they engage consumer markets at the ground level to conduct research based on a specific question. Surveys, interviews, focus groups, observation, and other data collection methods are common methodologies. Field service firms do not design research nor analyze the findings; they strictly focus on gathering and documenting information.

  • Pros: Quick sourcing of unique information that can apply directly at the consumer level
  • Cons: Field research alone cannot always answer a marketing question; a research plan is needed
  • Best For: Businesses, brands, and agencies with a research plan that want to learn more about their market first-hand but without investing money in database building or field operations or logistics

Mystery Shopper Firms

By employing participants to operate as if they were naturally paying customers within the actual buying or service environment, mystery shopper firms collect and measure mock customer experience. The outcomes are fodder for assessing the businesses’ ground level, which is how a typical consumer experiences their brand. Mystery shoppers gather valuable data that can help brands refocus and refind their service offerings and frontline interactions from a fresh perspective.

  • Pros: Cost-effective; can help firms gain a new perspective from a real-life context
  • Cons: Qualitative nature of study is harder to scale and can be limited in scope; Negative experiences can create fallacy of vividness and skew results
  • Best For: Large organizations that are subdivided into franchises, region branches, etc.

Shopper Insights Firms

Market research agencies that specialize in shopper insights seek to create a compelling case in the moment purchase decisions. They understand the behavioral framework within which consumers evaluate products and make decisions in the store context. Most shopper insights firms apply a digital-first approach with a significant understanding of neuroscience. Technologies range from eye-tracking to data point capture of the in-store experience. 

  • Pros: Expert advice that can help make effective use of shelf space
  • Cons: Insight does not directly lead to new product innovation
  • Best For: Research teams and marketers who have a significant range of CPG in their brand portfolio

Full-Service Market Research Firms

A full-service firm will help answer marketing questions by building a study design from the ground up, conducting it, and then presenting the results in an actionable format. The full spectrum of research management, including methodology, study design, and extent of research are customized based on business needs.

  • Pros: End-to-end full-service experience; have business questions answered in a way that leaves little doubt
  • Cons: Can be more costly and require more time due to the comprehensive nature
  • Best For: Firms of all sizes willing to invest in a custom solution to deliver meaningful business results over time

Every firm and project has a different area of focus. An expert research partner can offer customized solutions to meet business needs, allowing data-reliant companies to make informed decisions with confidence. Knowing when it is right to work with an industry expert, or a more generalized firm can be based on use case, budget, time frame and many other variables. Understanding your options is the first step to making the decision that is right to advance your stated business goals. 

At Qlarity Access, we take partnership seriously. With our many years in the data collection industry, we’ve worked directly with brands or worked along side research firms of all shapes and sizes. No matter what the project is, getting the right answers at the right time is the key to success.  

For a comprehensive view of what a data collection partner can do, download our free guide: 6 Keys to Accelerate Growth with the Right Data Collection Partner and find the best fit for your next project.


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