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How to Reconcile Conflicting Market Research Sources

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As discussed in a previous blog post, a business may use several types of market research to learn more about a market or create strategy and expansion plans. As businesses turn to multiple sources and external data providers, they find providers that have differences in their data. Common questions they may have to ask include: Why does it differ from—or even contradict—other sources? Which version is correct? What process does the provider use to acquire data?

Businesses need to invest time in understanding the differences between research providers to ensure that the data used in their business planning is accurate.


Although market research providers may cover the same industry topic, providers can track different measures at different times, using different methodologies and definitions, for different purposes. This is why there are so many providers within the market research space.

Each of the criteria below needs to be considered when trying to understand data discrepancies.

First, learn about your market research providers and how they research the industry of focus.

It is important to ask the following questions when reviewing numbers from multiple research providers.

  • Is the provider an independent research house, with proprietary models that they can readily explain?
  • Who do they engage with when conducting primary research?
  • Do they produce scan data?
  • Do they have a physical presence in the analysed country, or is research conducted remotely?
  • Is this a public or government body?
  • If the provider is a trade association, who are its members? What percentage of the whole sector do they represent?
  • When looking at a customer survey company, do they run surveys in household, at point of sale or exclusively online? What is the sample size? Is it a fair representation of a given society or city? Is it a perfect match for the product surveyed?

Next, consider the time frame in which the research is conducted.

These questions are important, because each answer brings a different set of data and greater possibility of data discrepancies.

  • Is the research updated monthly, quarterly or annually?
  • Does it mix actual numbers with forecasted estimates?

Third, determine which products and distribution channels are included in the data.

Ask these questions of both your own organisation and the market research provider. Market research companies will have different norms depending on their methodology, client base and goals, thus reconciling sources is a necessity.

  • Is an industry sub-category, such as ready-to-drink coffee, considered a hot drink or a soft drink?
  • Does your organisation count children’s bicycles as toys and expect them to be included when measuring the toys and games market?
  • When tracking clothing, do you expect the provider to include products sold through unlicensed outdoor markets or street stalls that sell second-hand products?
  • When measuring staples, does your organisation consider unpackaged, unbranded products sold in bulk?
  • For cigarettes or spirits, should illicit sales be factored into the data-sets?
  • In assessing the performance of luxury bags, do sales through internet or duty-free channels still apply?

Finally, find a provider that meets your needs—and do not dismiss a potentially valuable resource.

It is crucial that a business takes time to assess each source and its respective methodologies. Do not be afraid to ask providers how they conduct their research and how that research can assist in overall planning. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to research, and using sources with sound, easy-to-understand methodologies is key to success.

Euromonitor International syndicated research tracks 30 industries and services, as well as detailed economic and lifestyles data, with teams based in 80 countries around the globe. We apply a solid, proven and transparent research methodology, involving both primary and secondary research. The products tracked, the channels they are sold into and the criteria used are all clearly defined, so that our research is fully cross-comparable, from sector to sector and country to country. All of our data is updated annually, with some renewed monthly or quarterly. All the information necessary to answer the fundamental points above is available online, and users are supported 24/7 by dedicated account management teams. For more details, visit: http://www.euromonitor.com/research-expertise.

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