Market Research Industry Overview

The global market research industry was approximately $12BN dollars in 2006. In 2006, the industry is composed of approximately 65,000 market research jobs with nearly 35,000 in the United States. It is worthy to note, however, more than 220,000 marketing-related jobs in the U.S. use data and information generated by the industry--of which nearly 90% are analysts. Historically, the market research industry has grown at approximately 5.1% per year. The industry is composed of two large segments including syndicated research and custom research.

Overview of the syndicated market research sector

Syndicated Research

Syndicated research includes reports that are written once, typically by a marketing research analyst, and sold multiple times. Examples include reports on the Information Technology industry written by the Gartner Group as well as reports revealing customer satisfaction levels by J.D. Power. Syndicated research also includes data that is collected and sold multiple times. Common examples include supermarket scanner data sold by A.C. Nielsen and Information Resources, prescription data sold by IMS, radio listening data sold by Arbitron and television viewership data sold by Nielsen Media. Frequently, this class of research is called "secondary" as it is not commissioned by any single client. Measured in dollars, syndicated research represents approximately one-third of the global market research industry.

Custom Research

The balance of the global market research industry, $8BN, is classified as custom market research. Custom research is designed and executed to meet a specific client's objective and is often called "primary" research. Because the research is paid for by the client, the results are proprietary and not resold. Custom research is itself composed of two segments, qualitative and quantitative research.

Overview of the custom market research sector


Qualitative Research
Qualitative research provides "directional" research and is often used very early in the investigatory process. While there are others, in-person interviews and focus groups are the most common forms of qualitative research.

Quantitative Research
Quantitive research leverages the opinions of hundreds if not thousands of people to understand consumer attitudes, preferences and market opportunities. Quantitive research is typically conducted via the use of market research surveys, including telephone, mail, in-person, mall intercept and online.

Also see the 50 largest firms within the Market Research industry or a list of the leading Market Research Associations and Newsletters complied by us.


Market Research Industry Trends

In recent years, the market research industry has been transformed by consolidation and the emergence of online research. Both of these trends have been essential in sustaining the profitability of the industry and companies that use it.

Online research has surged due to its lower cost, Federal "Do-Not-Call" legislation (which interesting does not impact the industry's ability to call consumers) and consumer transitions away from telephones to cell phones.

Importantly, online research is also accelerating the speed at with researchers and marketers can make decisions. However, the speed is making it hard for everyone, including market research professionals, to keep up.