The Essential Skills of a
Market Research Analyst

See also: Strategic Thinking Skills

In today's competitive global economy, market research is an essential tool. It's what helps entrepreneurs refine their startup ideas to have the best odds of success. And it's also what established businesses use to explore the viability of new products and services. In short, modern businesses rarely make a move without doing market research first.

That makes the skills of market research analysts quite valuable in today's job market. But learning how to be a market research analyst isn't as straightforward as you might think. And that's because it's a discipline that's part science and part art form – meaning you'll need to develop a diverse skill set to be good at the job.

Here are the essential skills of a market research analyst.

Data Analysis Skills

At its heart, market research involves the collection of large amounts of data, which you then mine for useful insights about a given line of business or industry. And that means that data analysis is the most important part of the job of a market research analyst.

Specifically, market research analysts must understand four specific data analysis types, which are:

  • Descriptive Data Analysis – Techniques to organize and categorize historical data to identify existing trends. This is often used to quantify the results of past business practices in raw terms (like the number of sales, products manufactured, site visits, etc.).

  • Diagnostic Data Analysis – Techniques to compare data sets that help identify causal relationships. For example, if a descriptive analysis revealed increasing sales over a given period, a diagnostic analysis would seek the reason for the change (such as a marketing campaign, a price change, or an external trend).

  • Predictive Data Analysis – Techniques that use existing data to forecast future trends and outcomes. This often involves complex mathematical models and the application of machine learning algorithms to extract meaningful predictions from available data sets.

  • Prescriptive Data Analysis – A more advanced form of predictive analysis, prescriptive analysis attempts to forecast potential outcomes that result from hypothetical changes to business practices. An existing business might use this to determine if ending production of a particular product might have unintended consequences, or if the launch of a new product might make others redundant.

Data Collection Skills

Even though market research analysts often work with data that businesses already have on hand, they're frequently called upon to collect new data, as well. And that means they need to be skilled in a variety of data collection techniques, too. These include:

  • Interpersonal and Interview Skills – Market research analysts often use focus groups and customer interviews to collect specific data to use in their work. But getting usable data means having a high level of interpersonal skills and interview skills. This is critical to extract usable information that's free of potential biases.

  • Survey Creation – Market research analysts must know how to create scientifically valid surveys to focus in on the information they're hoping to gather. They also have to be familiar with using form builder software to create and publish digital versions of the surveys they create.

  • Data Curation – This refers to the skills needed to manage collected data and distill it down to what's useful for market research purposes. In other words, it means knowing how to eliminate irrelevant data and prepare what's left for the process of market research.

Communication Skills

One of the major purposes of market research is to uncover business insights that inform strategy. But data alone isn't always enough in a business context. And that's why a market research analyst needs strong communication skills, too. This allows them to communicate the significance of their findings to stakeholders, who may then use them in their decision-making processes. Without those skills, they'd be unable to function effectively within a business's hierarchy.

Data Visualization Skills

In addition to communication skills, market research analysts must understand how to create compelling data visualizations that aid in communicating their findings to others. Data visualizations are graphic representations of datasets, aimed at highlighting relevant trends or takeaways from the data. They make it possible for stakeholders without a background in data analysis to see and understand the work that a market research analyst does.

Knowledge of Human Behavior and Psychology

Since the role of a market research analyst is to understand how consumers will act and react to products, services, and business strategies, they need a deep understanding of human behavior and psychology. This is because market research doesn't always yield clear answers to every business question. And that's where the role of a market research analyst comes much closer to being an art form than a science.

Market research analysts have to use their knowledge of psychology to design appropriate investigations that will yield useful insight. This means they need a sharp sense of intuition and insight into consumer behavior. Otherwise, there would be no way to narrow down possible areas of inquiry. The knowledge provides valuable context and allows the market researcher to make baseline assumptions that guide their work.

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Further Reading from Skills You Need

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The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the role of a market research analyst revolves around data. And that's what makes data analysis skills so crucial to the job. But unlike the role of a data scientist, a market research analyst must also know how to collect useful data through field research and direct consumer contact. They also have to understand the mind of the consumer. In other words, they must know their subjects as more than just raw numbers and data points.

All these skills allow market research analysts to provide the valuable insights that modern businesses now depend on. They reduce the number of costly errors that businesses make when they approach decisions without the appropriate information. And they deliver better and more relevant products and experiences to consumers. That said, it should be no wonder that market research analysts are so in demand in today's job market. And now you know exactly what skills to develop if you want to be one of them.

About the Author

Philip Piletic closely follows the impact of technology on education, and its evolution from traditional to modern methods that include e-learning, courses, gamification, and others. He has also helped the Sydney-based IT & Business school in developing their IT courses.