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Natalie Burclaff, Business Reference Specialist, Science, Technology & Business Division
Note: Based on an earlier guide titled Market Segmentation January 2005 by Ellen Terrell, Business Reference Specialist, Science, Technology & Business Division
Created: February 1, 2020
Last Updated: February 24, 2021
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Consumer research is done with the intention of understanding the needs or behaviors of a particular group in order to define who to best market a product or service to, also known as identifying a target market.
Customer segments can be grouped by different variables, such as demographic, geographic, psychographic (values and lifestyle), or behavioral. This guide specifically focuses on resources useful for the business to consumer (B2C) industry, where individuals are the end users of a product or service. While this guide does not cover every resource, it does highlight commonly used sources and publishers of population and consumer data.
“There is only one winning strategy. It is to carefully define the target market and direct a superior offering to that target market.” - Philip Kotler, "Father of Modern Marketing"1
Consumer attitudes, values, habits, and preferences are often collected via interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Businesses also collect data about their customers and sales in order to make decisions about pricing, inventory, and advertising. As technology becomes more ubiquitous, the amount, speed and type of data collected by businesses and third parties has increased. This flood of information, also known as big data, is tracked, analyzed and used for business intelligence. However, there are major concerns from consumers' rights and privacy rights groups as to what information is collected, how it is obtained, what is done with the information, such as if it is shared with other organizations, and how transparent the data collection is to the consumer.
To find statistics on a specific topic or consumer group:
You may be interested in extremely niche information that is not collected or published by an existing source. In that case, you would need to conduct your own market research; resources on conducting primary market research or identifying firms that specialize in primary market research are included in this guide.
Part of the Science, Technology & Business Division at the Library of Congress, Business Reference Services is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of business and economics. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of business assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of business and economics materials.