The process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present and potential customers for the product or service; research into the characteristics, spending habits, location and needs of your business's target market, the industry as a whole, and the particular competitors you face.
Accurate and thorough information is the foundation of all successful business ventures because it provides a wealth of information about prospective and existing customers, the competition, and the industry in general. It allows business owners to determine the feasibility of a business before committing substantial resources to the venture.
Market research provides relevant data to help solve marketing challenges that a business will most likely face--an integral part of the business planning process. In fact, strategies such as market segmentation (identifying specific groups within a market) and product differentiation (creating an identity for a product or service that separates it from those of the competitors) are impossible to develop without market research.
Market research involves two types of data:
Primary information. This is research you compile yourself or hire someone to gather for you.
Secondary information. This type of research is already compiled and organized for you. Examples of secondary information include reports and studies by government agencies, trade associations or other businesses within your industry. Most of the research you gather will most likely be secondary.