Companies can buy secondary data reports from outside suppliers. For example, Nielsen Marketing Research sells data on brand shares, retail prices, and percentages of stores stocking different brands. Information Resources, Inc. sells supermarket scanner purchase data from a panel of 60,000 households nationally, with measures of trial and repeat purchasing, brand loyalty, and buyer demographics. These and other firms supply high-quality data to suit a wide variety of marketing information needs.
Advantages of Secondary Data
Secondary data can usually be obtained more quickly and at a lower cost than primary data. For example, an Internet or online database search might provide all the information Campbell needs on soup usage, quickly and at almost no cost. A study to collect primary information might take weeks or months and cost thousands of dollars. Also, secondary sources sometimes can 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 Campbell to conduct a continuing retail store audit to find out about the market shares, prices, and displays of competitors’ brands.
Disadvantages of Secondary Data
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, Campbell will not find existing information about consumer reactions to new packaging that it has not yet placed on the market. Even when data can be found, they 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).
Secondary data provide a good starting point for research and often help to define problems and research objectives. In most cases, however, the company must also collect primary data.