Gathering Secondary Data

Researchers usually start by gathering secondary data. The company's internal database provides a good starting point. However, the company can also tap into a wide assortment of external information sources, including commercial data services and government sources (see # Table 4.1).

Companies can buy secondary data reports from outside suppliers. For example, ACNielsen sells buyer data from a consumer panel of more than 260,000 households in 27 countries worldwide, with measures of trial and repeat purchasing, brand loyalty, and buyer demographics. A Experian Consumer Research (Simmons) sells information on more than 8,000 brands in 450 product categories, including detailed consumer profiles that assess everything from the products consumers buy and the brands they prefer to their lifestyles, attitudes, and media preferences. The MONITOR service by Yankelovich sells information on important social and lifestyle trends. These and other firms supply high-quality data to suit a wide variety of marketing information needs.14

Using commercial online databases, marketing researchers can conduct their own searches of secondary data sources. General database services such as Dialog, ProQuest, and LexisNexis put an incredible wealth of information at the keyboards of marketing decision makers. Beyond commercial Web sites offering information for a fee, almost every industry association, government agency, business publication, and news medium offers free information to those tenacious enough to find their Web sites. There are so many Web sites offering data that finding the right ones can become an almost overwhelming task.

Web search engines can also be a big help in locating relevant secondary information sources. However, they can also be very frustrating and inefficient. For example, an Axe marketer googling "mens cologne" would come up with some 1,470,000 results! Still, well-structured, well-designed Web searches can be a good starting point to any marketing research project. For example, the fourth hit in the "mens cologne" Google search list would take the Axe marketing to a page containing consumer reviews and price comparisons of hundreds of men's cologne brands.

Home of Simmons, The Voice of the American Consumer for Over 50 Yearn

I; Experian"

Consumer Research

Consumer database services such as Experian Consumer Research sell an incredible wealth of information on everything from the products consumers buy and the brands they prefer to their lifestyles, attitudes, and media preferences.

• table i 4.1 Selected External Information Sources

ACNielsen Corporation ( provides point-of-sale scanner data on sales, market share, and retail prices; data on household purchasing; and data on television audiences (a unit of VNU NV).

Experian Consumer Research (Simmons) ( provides detailed analysis of consumer patterns in 400 product categories in selected markets.

Information Resources, Inc., ( provides supermarket scanner data for tracking grocery product movement and new product purchasing data.

IMS Health ( tracks drug sales, monitors performance of pharmaceutical sales representatives, and offers pharmaceutical market forecasts.

Arbitron ( provides local-market and Internet radio audience and advertising expenditure information, among other media and ad spending data.

J.D. Power and Associates ( provides information from independent consumer surveys of product and service quality, customer satisfaction, and buyer behavior.

Dun & Bradstreet ( maintains a database containing information on more than 50 million Individual companies around the globe.

comScore Networks ( provides consumer behavior information and geodemographic analysis of Internet and digital media users around the world.

Thomson Dialog ( offers access to more than 900 databases containing publications, reports, newsletters, and directories covering dozens of industries.

LexisNexis ( features articles from business, consumer, and marketing publications plus tracking of firms, industries, trends, and promotion techniques.

Factiva ( specializes in in-depth financial, historical, and operational information on public and private companies.

Hoover's, Inc., ( provides business descriptions, financial overviews, and news about major companies around the world.

BBC World News ( reports global news and covers the markets and news-making companies in detail.

Carol ( offers direct links to the financial pages of publicly listed companies in Europe.

For government i ' ta:

OECD ( provides information on the business sector, companies, industries, services, trade, investment, economic analysis, enterprises, and so forth for its member countries.

European Small Business Alliance ( features information and links for small business owners. Stat-USA (, a Department of Commerce site, highlights statistics on U.S. business and international trade. European Patent and Office ( allows searches to determine who has filed for trademarks and patents.

For Internet däiäsi

ClickZ ( brings together a wealth of information about the Internet and its users, from consumers to e-commerce. Interactive Advertising Bureau ( covers statistics about advertising on the Internet. Jupiter Research ( monitors Web traffic and ranks the most popular sites.

Secondary data can usually be obtained more quickly and at a lower cost than primary data. Also, secondary sources can sometimes provide data an individual company cannot collect on its own—information that either is not directly available or would be too expensive to collect. For example, it would be too expensive for Axe marketers to conduct a continuing retail store audit to find out about the market shares, prices, and displays of competitors' brands. But it can buy the InfoScan sendee from Information Resources, Inc., which provides this information based on scanner and other data from thousands of retail stores in various markets.15

Secondary data can also present problems. The needed information may not exist— researchers can rarely obtain all the data they need from secondary sources. For example, Unilever will not find existing information about consumer reactions to a new cologne line that it has not yet placed on the market. Even when data can be found, the information might not be very usable. The researcher must evaluate secondary information carefully to make certain it is relevant (fits research project needs), accurate (reliably collected and reported), current (up-to-date enough for current decisions), and impartial (objectively collected and reported).

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