The fundamental division of markets is between members of the general public and people buying or specifying on behalf of another business.
In consumer markets, the number of potential buyers of a product is often a significant proportion of a total population running into millions. So techniques used to research these markets include quantitative methods based on rigorous sampling as well as qualitative techniques that explore complex consumer perceptions and motivations.
Consumer markets can be further sub-divided between fast moving consumer goods, food and similar frequent purchases, and other markets, such as media, travel and leisure, financial, consumer durables.
Business-to-business market research employs the same techniques as consumer market research, but in different ways.
Many business-to-business markets are characterized by a much smaller population to survey, often measured in hundreds or thousands, unlike the consumer millions. B2b markets are also frequently variable and made up of companies in different industries and with huge differences in size.
Within businesses there are often complex groups involved in influencing the buying decision – known as the DMU or decision making unit. While the obvious groups, such as procurement, place the orders, technical and production departments may set a specification and financial departments impose budgets.
Business-to-business markets are complex, with smaller and more varied populations as well as tangled decision making units, all requiring different research methods. With sample sizes smaller in number, the researcher may be leaning as much on judgement and interpretation as on the rigor of the method.