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In market research, many terms are used interchangeably, and this often leads to confusion, or worse, false expectations. We recently read a blog from Instantly, and were inspired to share the differences between common market research terms that are often mixed-up. Before you work with a market research firm, read through the terms so that you clearly understand what the firm is discussing, and know exactly what it is that you are describing.

Data or insights?

Data is what is collected. So when a market research firm sends out surveys, conducts focus groups, or hosts online panels, the data is what’s reported – the actual answers that come back. Insights are what comes out from the data after it is analyzed – it gives structure and interprets what the data means. Data and insights go hand-in-hand, but they have very different purposes.

Results or findings?

You’ll often hear results and findings used interchangeably, but if you want to be a true market research pro, make sure you understand the difference between these two terms. Results are the data that’s collected – so all of the answers from a survey, for example. The findings are the interpretation of these results – so what has been found once the results have been compiled, analyzed, and interpreted.

Business intelligence or market research?

Business intelligence and market research are also used interchangeably – but they don’t mean the same thing. Market research refers to the discipline that seeks to find answers to very specific research problems. Tools to answer these research issues may include surveys, mobile ethnographies, focus groups, or in-depth interviews. Market research seeks to understand the motivations and behavior of consumers by applying qualitative and quantitative methods. Business intelligence, in contrast, looks at a broader understanding of a marketplace and the dynamics within the marketplace. Business intelligence uses data from financial reports, competitive information, and overall market trends.

Communities or panels?

Communities and panels are ways to connect with customers or prospects, but there is a difference: Panels are taken from pools of respondents who fit a certain demographic. For example, women aged 30-34 who have a certain income and shop at specific stores. Panels are used in both qualitative and quantitative studies, but they are pulled randomly based on demographic features. Communities, in contrast, are smaller, interactive, and may be re-assembled multiple times. They typically express brand loyalty to a product, and they may be a part of longitudinal studies that seek to track changes in behavior with a brand or product over time.

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