There is often some confusion around the definition of consumer research within the field of marketing and retail.
Often used interchangeably with the term ‘market research’, it is really a niche topic within that, as it focuses on the individual drivers and buying behaviour of a consumer. Because of this, it can be seen as an aspect of sociology.
Often a commercial, as well as an academic activity, a retailer or a specialist consumer research company, such as Blue Yonder Research based in Leeds, will undertake a range activities that may include:
- Direct observation of customers in a real or set up retail environment
- Direct mail or email surveys
- Interviews conducted face to face or by telephone
- Analysis of published data taken from publicly published sources
The difference between consumer and market research is the focus on human and economic factors respectively.
You can define market research as ‘the gathering and analysis of information about the movement of a good or service from producer to consumer‘.
Whereas you can define consumer research as ‘the gathering and analysis of information about the motives, needs and behaviours of different types of buyer / end user‘.
Generally, a large provider of products or services will undertake both types of activity, gaining both qualitative and quantitive information to help the company understand both the market in which they operate and how to meet the needs, wants and expectations of its ideal consumers.