CX 101: What Is Primary Research?

Primary Research

If you want to get to know someone, the best way to get an accurate assessment is to ask them questions yourself. You may want to know what they like and don’t like, what makes them happy, sad, or angry, how they feel about specific topics, or anything else that gives you greater insight into their personality.

The same is true when you’re trying to understand market research; having an accurate assessment of your audience and their buying patterns will make all the difference when it comes to customer satisfaction and business sales. You need to know what makes them excited or frustrated, how they respond to specific issues or perspectives, and topics that are relevant to them, all so that you can better understand and help them. This also provides a better grasp of industry trends and challenges so that organizations can offer memorable and fulfilling content, experiences, and products.

The best way to get accurate data, though, is to gather it yourself whenever possible. That’s where primary research comes in. This guide will cover everything you need to know about primary research and how you can capitalize on the many opportunities it provides.

What Is Primary Research?

Primary research is a methodology of research that requires you to collect data yourself (or commission someone else to conduct the research), meaning you are not using someone else’s research or data. From detailed surveys to intensive focus groups, primary research allows you to directly examine, explore, and record how your audience responds to or feels about certain subjects.

Businesses use primary research for a variety of reasons, such as discovering what their clients or customers need from their product or the kind of language that speaks to their target audience. Organizations also use this kind of primary research to improve the experience of both customers and employees and optimize their service. 

Primary Research Methods and Examples

The more accurate data you can gather, the better prepared you will be for the data-driven world that businesses run on. Here are some methods of primary research to help you discover the kind of data you want to gather and how you should go about your research.


Surveys are versatile and, when well-made, incredibly useful ways to gather quantitative information. They are a quick way to get honest opinions or preferences from both customers and employees without demanding too much work from them. Plus, online and automated surveys make it extra easy for both the participants and the researchers—they can be conveniently sent via email and accessed on all sorts of devices.

Surveys should have a variety of open-ended and closed questions so that participants have the opportunity to give greater details for their answers while also providing more numerical data. You want to keep your survey short and focused. That said, you can use a rating scale, multiple choice, ranking, and drop-down questions, among many other types of questions.

Make sure you have a predetermined theme that you can tie each question back to, as well as a target audience that will give you the most relevant responses. For example, let’s say you just launched a new navigation layout on your online store website and want to know how it’s being received. You would need to create questions all related to the usability, convenience, and flow of the navigation. You could do this by sending the survey to someone who just made a purchase and asking them to rate their experience or specific elements of your online store.


Interviews are a much broader way to collect information, and unlike the quantitative nature of most surveys, interviews are more qualitative since they are usually created with open-ended questions. You can do interviews in person and face-to-face, or you can do them over the phone. You can usually get more in-depth answers with interviews depending on the interviewer and their experience with interviewing. Great interviewers can especially get great results for in-person interviews.

If you need large amounts of information for a relatively short list of participants, interviewers are an excellent option. They can last 10-30 minutes or sometimes longer depending on the nature of the work you’re doing. Just know that in-person interviews can influence the comfort level and the responses of interviewees, so an expert interviewer will be able to create the right environment and read the room to accurately record the responses.

An example of a good interview opportunity would be if you need to gather information about a certain subject from experts. Imagine a company that develops equipment for a specific medical condition and needs to improve its current model. This company could interview both the specialists and doctors who assist patients as well as the patients themselves to get concrete answers directly from the source.


If you need to collect data but don’t want to directly interact with “respondents” in order to protect the accuracy of the data, then observations may be the best route for you. While it can be difficult to create these scenarios, observation primary research is a method where there is no direct interaction between the researcher and the person being observed. All the researcher does is observe and record how the target group or person reacts or responds.

There are usually either trained specialists who know what to look for while observing or people who use cameras to document the experience. This is especially good for removing as much bias as possible.

Let’s say a restaurant offers customers a complimentary appetizer if they have to wait longer than an hour. That restaurant could install cameras and study how many people wait, how long they last if they decide to leave, the size of groups that are willing to wait, etc.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are small groups of people, usually no larger than 6-10 individuals, who come together and discuss questions that are provided by a moderator. This is ideal for a group of experts who can discuss a topic at length or even a group of customers who can offer greater insight into your product. This is a good opportunity to identify pain points, niche parts of an industry, or how well people respond to a new idea or product.

Maybe you want to improve your employee incentive program—you could put together a small focus group within the company to start a discussion about potential benefits and see what people react well to. Or, let’s say you’re launching a new product but aren’t sure how your target audience will receive it. A small focus group could interact with or use your product and then offer feedback in a focus group.

Research Services & Data Analysis

It’s one thing to conduct a survey or an interview, but it’s another thing to process, analyze, and act upon that data you gather. Even putting an effective research project together can be overwhelming for businesses, which is why research services are another method of primary research. You can hire a team of experts or find a program that quickly compiles your data into usable statistics.

This is also best if you need help with data analysis, which is the process of inspecting and screening your reports for objective, accurate, and insightful data. This can be a huge project, which is why experts who know how to categorize and analyze data are particularly helpful for businesses and organizations.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Primary Research

Here are some major benefits of primary research as well as certain challenges to be aware of.


  • Accuracy and Relevance: When you conduct the research yourself, you don’t have to worry about the work or bias of other researchers—you account for everything, which means you gather exactly what you need. 
  • Control: Every step of your primary research is intentional, meaning you have more control over the kind of results you get. Decisions are made at your own discretion, and you don’t have to worry about citations or relying on other sources.
  • Up to date: You don’t have to rely on outdated sources or statistics. Instead, you get just what you need for your specific goals at the time you need it.
  • Improved customer experiences: Primary research is also particularly beneficial for your customers and clients since you are directly improving their experience with your business offering. You can conduct market surveys in-house by using the InMoment platform to make the most of your survey analysis.


  • Resources: Not everyone has the time or the money to conduct their own research. Planning, executing, reporting, and analyzing the data you gather is expensive and demanding. This can prevent both the quality and the accuracy of work if you use poor resources, cut corners, or rush the process. 
  • Feasibility: Especially when poorly designed, not all primary research projects are realistic. Interviewing every member of your staff of 500, for example, isn’t a reasonable goal.
  • Research Bias: Even though you get to customize your research, you also have to be especially careful when it comes to objectivity. Your opinions, assumptions, and preferences must not get in the way of accurate research, which isn’t always easy. Sometimes, an unbiased third party can help businesses accurately gather and analyze their data.

Primary Research Vs. Secondary Research

There are two core types of research: primary and secondary. Primary research is a powerful tool for businesses; however, secondary research, which is research that you don’t conduct yourself but gather from other sources, shouldn’t be dismissed. In fact, the best scholars and businesses use a combination of primary and secondary research to round out their perspectives.

Using both primary and secondary research is what gives you a comprehensive report of your findings—the more reliable sources that support your findings, the more credible and usable your data is. Sometimes, primary research is mainly done to supplement or confirm findings done in secondary research.

For example, a tech company may want to update its work-from-home policy. They may find secondary research that offers some insight into what employees prefer, but they could also do their own primary research to get specific information from their own employees that is accurate and up to date.

The bottom line is that primary research and secondary research are both more rewarding and useful when used in conjunction with each other, not in competition. Primary research will give you data or information specific to your concerns, company, customers, industry, etc. Secondary research may offer applicable insights into your questions and concerns as well, though there are limits to how directly the information relates to your niche goals.

Primary Research with InMoment

If you want to be competitive in your field, encourage honesty and authenticity among your employees, and produce effective market research, it’s time to use InMoment. You don’t have to be an analyst, a scholar, or a mathematician to do your own primary research—you can trust the expertise and advanced technology of InMoment platforms to simply but powerfully compile your needed data and take your business to the next level.

Primary research is invaluable when it comes to market research and giving customers the best possible experience with your brand. Learn how InMoment can help you gain the most insight out of your primary research surveys!

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