A market research analyst studies market conditions to help clients decide what products or services to sell, who to sell them to and at what price. Research analysts gather and analyze data on aspects of the marketing “Four P’s” (product, price, place, promotion) on a regular basis to provide the most comprehensive information possible to clients and managers. They forecast trends in marketing and sales, measure effectiveness of past campaigns and interpret data that is converted into readable reports that can be used for business needs.
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A marketing analyst may help business clients gain footing in markets before competitors but can also help business clients avoid major losses of time and money by analyzing trends in data on a preemptive basis.
Market Research vs. Marketing Research
Is there really much of a difference in market research vs. marketing research? Yes. In the simplest of explanations, market research is much more narrow in scope and is even considered a component of marketing research. Market research focuses on one of the Four P’s of marketing: place.
For example, a clothing company wants to run internet ads for their new sweater. A manager asks someone to research if the company should spend their money targeting iPhone users, Android users, or a combination of both. That person may look at sales figures for similar products, build a questionnaire for past customers to see if they use iPhones or Android phones and examine how they shop online. After research is conducted, a decision is made as to which would render a better return on investment, or ROI.
This is an example of a very specific situation where market research was conducted.
Marketing research, however, is very broad. Marketing research includes all of the Four P’s of marketing, and it includes every component of market research as well. Marketing research encompasses large chunks of data covering customers, advertising, products, sales, trends and distribution of entire industries, as well as trends in other industries to decide if any of those could be relatable elsewhere.
As an example: Someone performing marketing research for a clothing company may research clothing sales, distribution channels, price points of sales, demographics, trends in the clothing industry as well as other industries and more. They will then take that data and send it to clients and managers who may make decisions for any number of areas of business.
In short, market research focuses on the “market” part of the term—researching a specific market or component of a market. Marketing research focuses on the “research” part of the term—researching every possible area and extrapolating that data to find areas of improvement, even if they may seem unrelated at first glance.
What Does a Market Research Analyst Do?
The daily job duties of a market research analyst could vary greatly depending on the job scope and title. The general job description of market research analysts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), would include studying markets in an effort to provide business direction to increase sales of a product or service.
What that actually means, though, is that an analyst may sift through large data mines of information to find trends. They may create surveys, distribute them and analyze their data. They may research past sales and marketing metrics of their company or competitor companies in hopes of finding useful data to present to clients and managers. There are a number of daily activities an analyst may be involved in during the research process for a client, but most likely the analyst may follow some form of the marketing research process on a daily basis, which may include:
- Define a problem.
- Develop a research plan.
- Collect information.
- Analyze the information.
- Present findings.
- Make a decision.
The research process may take part in a small, very focused area of research that may go through the entire process in a few hours or a day, or it may be a longitudinal process that takes months; it depends on the scope.
Regardless of how an analyst goes about their day, they help contribute valuable information to various business departments that may lead to major organizational decisions.
How to Become a Market Research Analyst
There are a few different paths to becoming a market research analyst, but many begin with education. At minimum, a bachelor’s degree is required to begin in the market research analyst field, according to the BLS. Many analysts have degrees in statistics, data analytics or math, while others choose to pursue degrees in marketing, communications or organizational psychology. Some go on to achieve a master’s degree in varying fields.
After the minimum education is attained, on-the-job experience is the common next step. Future analysts may want to round out their knowledge. Many from a quantitative analysis background may want to learn marketing-specific skills, whereas those who come from a qualitative analysis background may want to learn skills like statistics, or other so-called “hard” skills.
College internships are a common way to enter the workforce in a field where college alone may not prepare a student for every skill needed for a certain position. Internships may help students to combine their college-taught skills with specific job-based skills and develop a strong aptitude as a market research analyst even before graduation. Oftentimes, strong internship candidates are offered full-time positions with employers upon graduation.
What Skills and Education Do Market Research Analysts Need?
To obtain a full-time position as a market research analyst, it is useful for candidates to have a well-balanced resume. A mix of data analytics education, licenses and on-the-job experience as well as strong “soft” skills may help in an analyst’s job search.
- Minimum of a bachelor’s degree (master’s degree may be useful for career advancement)
- Degree concentration: math, statistics, data analysis, informatics, business, marketing, organizational psychology
- The Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) may be helpful to strengthen a resume as a market research analyst.
- Students must pass an exam, have three years of industry experience and complete 12 hours of industry courses, as well as complete continuing education every two years.
- Analytical Skills: the ability to collect and analyze data, as well as perform statistics and high-level math
- Critical Thinking: being able to suggest courses of action based on collected/analyzed data
- Communication Skills: the ability to clearly present data findings to clients and managers, whether that be orally, visually or via the written word
- Detail Oriented: a keen attention to detail, as much of the daily work a market research analyst performs is very detail-specific with no room for errors
Market Research Analyst Salary and Job Outlook
With the internet, social media, phone and computer applications becoming more prevalent throughout our daily lives, more and more data is being shared and collected. As a result, companies may want to know more about customers by way of their digital footprint. Companies may use digital information about customers in order to better serve their consumer’s needs, especially as more and more commerce is handled online as opposed to in person. Because of this, the job outlook and salary for market research analysts are expected to continue to rise, according to the BLS.
Job candidates with strong on-the-job training coupled with a master’s degree in a big data field may find an advantage when searching for jobs in the industry, which is expected to grow exponentially over the next 10 years.
Salary and job outlook by the numbers:
Per the BLS, these are the expected numbers for job growth and salary as of September 2020:
Number of jobs (2019): 738,100
Expected Growth (2019–2029): 18%
Median Annual Wage (2019): $63,790
Median Hourly Wage (2019): $30.67
Last updated: November 2020