Market research is an organized effort to gather information about target markets and customers: know about them, starting with who they are. It is a very important component of business strategy and a major factor in maintaining competitiveness. Market research helps to identify and analyze the needs of the market, the market size and the competition. Its techniques encompass both qualitative techniques such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and ethnography, as well as quantitative techniques such as customer surveys, and analysis of secondary data.
It includes social and opinion research, and is the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organizations using statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social sciences to gain insight or support decision making.
The field of marketing research is much older than that of market research. Although both involve consumers, Marketing research is concerned specifically about marketing processes, such as advertising effectiveness and salesforce effectiveness, while market research is concerned specifically with markets and distribution. Two explanations given for confusing Market research with Marketing research are the similarity of the terms and also that Market Research is a subset of Marketing Research. Further confusion exists because of major companies with expertise and practices in both areas.