Delivering successful products and services requires a keen understanding of consumer spending patterns and markets. Insights about consumers enable businesses to create strategies that influence the people most likely to buy what they’re selling. Once companies identify what consumers want and who their products will appeal to, they can create messages aimed at specific markets.
For example, a business may design a message that attracts college students wanting to buy budget laptops. Or it may want to attract high-level executives looking to upgrade to computers with advanced features. For each market, businesses must tailor their messages to consumers and their purchasing power.
But how can businesses best identify and reach consumers who will bring in the most profits? Market research analysts study markets to help businesses to find target audiences. Because these professionals play a crucial role, many people want to know how to become a market research analyst. What education, experience and skills do candidates need? Earning an advanced degree in business analytics can help secure market research analyst positions.
Role and Responsibilities of a Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts gather and analyze data about consumers’ desires and budgets. This data covers buying habits; demographics such as age, lifestyle, income and location; and consumer preferences.
Consumer preferences refer to specific likes and dislikes that make consumers more inclined to keep buying a product once they’ve tried it. A preference can be as simple as plastic containers over glass ones; this preference leads a consumer to choose a ketchup brand packaged in a plastic container. Demographics can influence consumer preferences, which in turn influence buying habits.
Market research analysts get their information about consumers from surveys, focus groups, questionnaires, sales data and other means. Additionally, they use data from social media, the internet and the internet of things (IOT) for insights about consumer behavior.
To be competitive, businesses need to know how their products measure up to those of their competitors. Market research analysts research competitor prices, marketing methods and sales to draw insights. They also turn to secondary research — such as industry data published by consulting and research firms, government agencies and trade associations that can serve as an overview of competitors and potential buyers.
Market research analysts use marketing analytics techniques and statistical software to make sense of data. Data analysis helps them break down audiences into smaller, targeted groups likely to respond similarly to specific marketing strategies. For example, a car manufacturer makes luxury vehicles for consumers with high incomes, so it targets a high-income market segment.
Data analysis can also help market research analysts identify trends, such as consumer preferences for canned goods that are bisphenol A (BPA) free; assess the effectiveness of marketing activities, such as using blogs to drive sales; and forecast trends in marketing and sales, such as online sales versus in-store sales. Ultimately, research market analysts use these insights to make recommendations about increasing sales and improving products and services.
Market research analysts work in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Most industries use market research. However, consulting services, finance, insurance and wholesale trade companies employ the most market researchers overall.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job opportunities for market research analysts will grow by 20% between 2018 and 2028. The BLS also reports that market research analysts earned a median annual salary of $63,000 in 2018.
How to Become a Market Research Analyst
Becoming a market research analyst takes a combination of education and a varied skill set that includes analytical and communication abilities. The typical path to prepare for a market research analyst career follows.
While there are no set guidelines or education requirements for every market research analyst position, most require at least a bachelor’s degree in business, communications or a technical field — finance, marketing, data science, advertising and so on. However, as experts in their fields, market research analysts benefit from holding graduate degrees. Those who choose to pursue advanced degrees, such as the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business Online Master of Science in Business Analytics, can earn higher salaries and secure more prestigious roles. The BLS reports that the top 10% of earners in market research can expect annual salaries of $121,000 or more.
The specific requirements for a market research analyst differ by position and organization. However, some skills are fundamental to all positions. They include:
- Market research. Market research analysts must skillfully create questionnaires, conduct interviews and perform research using secondary sources. Useful analysis depends on quality data.
- Data analysis. Market research analysts must skillfully use statistical tools. Data analysis skills help them to identify target markets, differentiate products (demonstrating a product’s unique benefits compared with others) and gain insights into consumer behavior. Data analysis helps companies to determine the most successful marketing strategies.
- Industry forecasting. An important part of data analysis is interpreting what it suggests about future trends. Accurately projecting trends lets research market analysts make better recommendations about pricing, products and services, and market opportunities.
- Statistical analysis. Statistical analysis is a key method for assessing market research data. It can shed light on the characteristics of a product important to a particular group and help a business understand how factors such as price and quality affect consumer purchasing decisions.
- Presentation and communication. Market research analysts must make their findings accessible to people without technical backgrounds. Clear communication enables them to better collaborate with colleagues and supervisors.
Gaining relevant professional experience can help people interested in how to become a market research analyst. Professional experience may include internships in entry-level marketing roles, such as a marketing or data assistant, and networking with other marketing research professionals.
Market Yourself and Your Career
Preparing for a successful career in market research means cultivating key skills. The Smith Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program offers courses that develop necessary competencies, such as advanced technical skills and the ability to communicate data analyses.
The online degree enables students to maintain other life commitments while gaining new skills. Many courses support student learning in the field, including Advanced Marketing Analytics, which covers the process of gathering and interpreting primary and secondary data as well as marketing analysis techniques.
Other courses include Data, Models and Decisions, an introduction to analytical techniques and models for decision-making. The Social Media and Web Analytics course prepares students to leverage data from the web by examining concepts and principles related to social media and online platforms. Strategy Analytics sharpens students’ abilities to apply statistical analysis.
What does it take to thrive as a market research analyst? Discover how the Maryland Smith Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program develops the expertise needed to excel in market research.