Every time you swipe a membership card at a grocery store or click a "Like"
button on Facebook, you're making a market researcher smile. With these and
many other actions every day, you're sharing information that can be analyzed
in order to understand what you might like to buy.
Market researchers collect, analyze and interpret data on consumer preferences
and public attitudes towards issues. Businesses and other organizations use
this data for important decisions. These decisions could include how and to
whom to market their product or service, where to open a new location, or
the overall feeling of the public toward a certain political issue.
Market researchers may be employed full time by a business or organization
to carry out market research specifically for that company. They might work
for a large firm that provides services to clients on a contract basis. Market
researchers may also work for themselves as consultants, taking on clients
as a small business.
There are two main areas in marketing research, says Subbu Sivaramakrishnan.
He's an associate professor of marketing and a market research consultant.
"One is the more qualitative kind of research," says Sivaramakrishnan.
"For example, conducting focus groups, designing the questionairre, conducting
interviews and so on."
Qualitative research involves identifying peoples' preferences and feelings
about products and ideas. In a qualitative research study such as a focus
group, the market researchers will encourage consumers to discuss a product
or issue that a client wants information about.
"The other area is the quantitative side of research," says Sivaramakrishnan.
"This is the number-crunching side. Now, when you are on the number-crunching
side, you're not interacting with consumers and respondents. Most of your
work might be done sitting at a computer and running statistical analyses
on the data that's been collected and making sense out of it."
The researchers who crunch numbers are sometimes called marketing analysts
or marketing analytics specialists.
"To be successful in it, you have to be able to not only look at raw data
and interpret what it means -- not everybody can do that," says Sherry Schneider.
She's a market research and data analytics recruiter in Detroit.
"You do have to be able to find meaning out of numbers, in raw data, so
that's where the analytics side comes," Schneider says. "If you're a problem
solver and you like math... that kind of person would succeed in market research
or market analytics."
Market researchers also design ways to collect the data they need. They
may design telephone or e-mail surveys. Most researchers carry out a blend
of these types of duties.
"A good sense of logic is key for a career in market research -- being
able to construct survey questions or conduct interviews in a way that follows
a natural progression and is presented in a clear, coherent manner," says
Tom Bernthal, CEO and founder of Kelton Research.
The day-to-day work of a market researcher can be pretty hectic. There
are no set hours and work can happen around any kind of schedule. You might
be running surveys on weekends at the mall, or supervising a focus group at
night when subjects are free to attend. Travel is often part of a researcher's
life -- the amount of traveling you do will depend on your specialty.
Most market researchers work in offices and, in many cases, they work alone
preparing reports or analyzing data. But they may also work as part of a research
team. They often have the pressure of working under deadlines and within tight