The career outlook for market research analysts is bright. Employment of market research analysts is projected to grow 18% from through most of this decade, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As industries across the globe increasingly rely on data and research to make important business decisions, the need for people to analyze and make sense of such data will grow.
Are you exploring a career in market research? This guide explains what a market research analyst is, how to become one, what types of market research exist, and more.
What Is a Market Research Analyst?
Market research analysts study market conditions to gauge potential sales of a product or service. They help companies understand which products to market, what prices to set, and who their ideal target audience is. While all industries use market research to some extent, industries that rely most heavily on it include retail, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing.
Related job titles in this field include, according to ONET:
- Business development specialist
- Communications specialist
- Demographic analyst
- Market analyst
- Market research analyst
- Market research consultant
- Market research specialist
- Market researcher
Top market research firms include Nielsen, QuintilesIMS, Kantar, IRI, Ispos, Westat, and The NPD Group.
What Does a Market Research Analyst Do?
A market research analyst researches conditions in local, regional, national, or online markets, and then sorts through this data to determine the potential sales of a product or service—and/or, to plan a marketing or advertising campaign.
In carrying out the above, a market research analyst uses mathematical and statistical tools to gain insights from the data. They often work with large amounts of raw data and must be able to draw conclusions from the data, and then present those conclusions in an easily understandable manner (often charts, tables, or graphs).
Other key job functions of a market research analyst include:
- Gathering information on competitors, prices, sales, and methods of marketing
- Analyzing search marketing tactics and web metrics to recommend ways to increase search engine rankings
- Spotting patterns and detecting trends
- Measuring the effectiveness of marketing programs and strategies
Types of Market Research
Fundamentally, market research always involves the following:
- Defining the problem and setting objectives
- Developing the research plan
- Collecting and analyzing the data
- Presenting the findings
- Using the findings to make business decisions
But beyond that, market research can be thought of in two ways:
1. Primary vs. Secondary
- Primary research comes directly from customers and prospects.
- Secondary research is compiled from government agencies, trade associations, and other third parties.
2. Quantitative vs. Qualitative
The former is more about numbers, the latter more about people.
- Quantitative statistical methods include multiple regression, discriminant analysis, factor analysis, cluster analysis, conjoint analysis, and multidimensional scaling. These methods can be used to gauge the size of a potential market, for example.
- Qualitative statistical methods include phone interviews, customer observations, and in-depth interviews, to name a few. Qualitative discovery is often used to characterize customer segments, discover new product features, and identify communication elements that resonate with the target audience.
Methods of Market Research
A market research analyst may use the following methods in the course of their job:
- Audience research—looks at who is listening, watching, or reading radio, TV, or online and print media and evaluates the popularity of the medium
- Product research—involves the use of product tests (using actual products or prototypes)
- Brand analysis—identifies the reasons for brand loyalty or lack of it
- Psychological profiling—creates customer profiles or personas according to temperament, lifestyle, income, and other factors
- Scanner research—examines the use of checkout counter scans of transactions to develop patterns, track the success of coupons, and establish links between products for up-sell and cross-sell purposes
- Database research—Uses multiple sources of data (for example, cross-referencing purchase records with census data to reveal buying habits of various income groups); also referred to as database mining
- Post-sale or consumer satisfaction research—determines if the customer was satisfied; this research also can build brand loyalty by expressing an interest in customers after the sale
How to Become a Market Research Analyst
Typical entry-level education for a market research analyst is a bachelor’s degree, the BLS reports. This bachelor’s degree may be in market research or a related field such as statistics, math, computer science, business administration, the social sciences, or communications. Some market research analyst jobs require a master’s degree.
To be successful in this role, it’s vital that you have taken courses in statistics, research methods, and marketing. You also need the following skills:
- Strong math and analytical skills
- Excellent attention to detail, being careful not to overlook details that could impact your results
- Critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills
Is Certification Needed to Be a Market Research Analyst?
Certification is completely voluntary, but it may make you more attractive to some employers. The Insights Association offers the Professional Researcher Certification for market research analysts.
Professional Organizations for Market Research Analysts
The following professional organizations may be of benefit to those interested in becoming a market research analyst:
- Insights Association was formed in 2017 from the merger of two organizations serving the market research and analytics industry: the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO, founded in 1975) and the Marketing Research Association (MRA, founded in 1957).
- Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) includes business experts from the market research industry, academia, and government who share strategic intelligence, research decision-support tools, processes, and analytics capabilities.
- The Advertising Research Foundation focuses on research in advertising, media, and marketing. The American Marketing Association offers tools and templates to help professionals with market research projects.
Gain the Education Needed to Be a Market Research Analyst
If you are looking to develop your career as a research analyst, consider the Wake Forest online Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA). The MSBA enables working professionals to develop deep, quantitative capabilities and technical expertise to create business and social value, with marketable skills required by today's top employers.