31 Best Ways To Collect Data For Secondary Research

Today, the free secondary data gathering methods and techniques are a gold mine for insights. Are you searching for different ways to collect data in statistics?

Or you are wondering how to gather customer data for market research and business analysis?

Whatever your purpose is, you have not only 3 or 4 ways to collect data but plenty of available instruments, free sources, and examples of secondary data collection (of both quantitative and qualitative data).

On this page:

  • What is secondary data? How to collect data?
  • Popular and hidden ways to collect internal data.
  • Best free online sources and methods to gather external data.
  • Infographics in PDF

What is Secondary Data? Why Secondary Data For Your Research?

As we have defined it in our post for primary vs secondary data, secondary data is the data that have been already collected for another purpose but has some relevance to your research needs.

Secondary data is second-hand information. It is not used for the first time. That is why it is called secondary.

Web information, business reports, mass media products, and the official statistics are among the most popular examples of secondary data.

But why secondary data for research in business or in statistics?

Here are the key benefits you can gain:

  • Very easy to access and perform – just think about how easy can be internet research in Google.
  • The majority of secondary sources of data collection are absolutely free for use or at very low costs.
  • Time-saving – when it comes to online techniques and ways to collect data, it is a matter of a few mouse clicks to find a credible source of information.
  • Larger sample size which can make the final inference much more straightforward.
  • Allow you to discover trends. As the secondary data studies are performed spanning over a large period of time, this can help you to notice valuable trends for data-driven decision-making.
  • Anyone can collect the data. Practically, secondary data collection methods can be conducted by anyone, even those that aren’t familiar with the different types of quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Secondary Data Variations:

There are two types of methods and ways to collect secondary data for research:

  • Internal sources of data: information gathered within the researcher’s company or organization (examples – a database with customer details, sales reports from past primary research, etc).
  • External sources of data: the data collected outside the organization (i.e. government statistics, media channels)

Also, secondary data can be 2 types depending on the research strands:

  • Quantitative data – data that can be expressed as a number or can be quantified. Examples – the weight and height of a person, the number of working hours, the volume of sales per month, etc. Quantitative data are easily amenable to statistical manipulation.
  • Qualitative data – the information that can’t be expressed as a number and can’t be measured. Qualitative data consist of words, pictures, observations, and symbols, not numbers. It is about qualities. Examples – colors of the eyes (brown, blue, green), your socioeconomic status, customer satisfaction, and etc.

For more information see our post qualitative vs quantitative data.

31 Best Ways To Collect Secondary Data

Internal Ways To Collect Data

You might have loads of data in your company or organization that you aren’t using. Would you like to learn how to use it?

All types of organizations, whatever they are business or non-profit, collect information during their everyday processes. Orders are performed, costs and sales are recorded, customer inquiries about products are submitted, reports are presented, and so on.

Much of this information is of great use in your marketing research. Don’t overlook these valuable sources of data collection. They can have hidden and unexpected value for you.

Ways To Collect Data in Your Business - infographic

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Now, let’s break down each data source from the above infographic so you know exactly how to collect data in your organization.

Here is a list of some common and hidden sources of internal information:

1. Sales data

Sales are essential to a company’s profitability. That’s why understanding sales data is an absolutely critical point for effective decision making.

Examples of sales data are revenue, profitability, price, distribution channels, buyer personas, etc. This information can show you areas of strength and weakness, which will drive your future decisions.

2. Finance data

Collecting and analyzing your financial data is a way to maximize profits. Examples of financial data are overheads and production costs, cash flow reports, amounts spent to manufacture products, etc.

While sales give information about the variations of products or services sold, financial data show the cost to make these products and services.

The numbers and figures in finance and sales reports are typical examples of quantitative data.

3. General marketing data

Marketing departments are a gold mine when it comes to the best techniques and ways to collect customer data.

Examples of marketing data are reports on customer profiles, market segmentation, level of customer satisfaction, level of brand awareness, customer engagement through content marketing, customer retention and loyalty, etc.

The level of customer satisfaction and brand awareness are common examples of qualitative data that you can gather.

Gathering and analyzing internal marketing data can help marketers and business owners to predict consumer reaction, personalize marketing messages and product offerings, develop campaign-based strategies, retain more customers at lower costs, etc.

4. Transport data

If your company stores good records relating to transport operations, it can give you insights into which are the most profitable routes, the most cost-effective routing patterns, and etc.

Good data collection and analysis of transport operations enables companies to provide well-planned, safe, and economical transportation services.

5. Human resources data

Human resource departments have information about the costs to recruit and train an employee, staff retention rate and churn, the productivity of an individual employee, etc.

Analyzing the collected HR data should be beyond just people metrics. Human resource data can help you uncover the areas where a company needs to improve its HR processes to empower staff skills, talent, and achievements.

6. Customer data from orders 

Data collection of orders is one of the best instruments and ways to gather customer data because it does not harass customers for information. The methods for collecting customer data should not be either unobtrusive or incentivized.

Orders provide very valuable customer data such as contact details, names, transaction history, payment methods, etc.

7. Transactional data and POS information

One of the most important sources of data is hidden within a company’s transactional system.

Here, you can find current and historical data relating to the shopping trends and behavior of your customers.

From this information, you can gain important insights, including patterns regarding customers’ buying habits and shopping preferences.

8. Customer relationship management system (CRM Software)

Businesses can also collect and analyze data within their own CRM system.

This system is a great source of Information like clients’ company affiliations, regional or geographical details for customers, and etc.

One of the most valuable insights that your CRM provides is a more realistic understanding of your customer needs. The insights allow your sales team to concentrate on prospects that are most likely to convert.

9. IoT (Internet of Things) as a big data source

The Internet of Things is growing exponentially, and providing unique methods and ways to collect data and insights. This data is commonly generated from the sensors that are connected to some types of electronic devices.

The range of devices includes IoT items that the business uses daily in the office. Examples – computers, smartphones, office security and alarm systems, car sensors, vending machines, health sensors, etc.

For instance, car sensors on a company’s fleet provide data about mileage, usage, gas and travel costs.

10. Emails as a source of data

The average office employee sends dozens of business emails per day and receives even more. That’s a huge amount of data. Business and marketing emails are a vibrant and very powerful way to connect with customers, partners, suppliers, etc.

Emails as instruments and ways to collect data provide important information such as product reviews, opinions, feedback and so on.

For gaining insights into emails, many businesses rely on specialized email data mining software that is able to study and analyze a vast number of emails in minutes. It helps companies draw meanings, trends, patterns from emails and thus to make well-informed business decisions.

11. Your Social Media profiles

Social Media profiles on networks like Facebook, Tweeter, Linkedin are a great source of information that you can analyze to learn more about, for example, how people are talking about your business and how users share and engage with your content.

The collected Social Media data provide actionable insights concerning your social media strategy as well as your marketing and sales activities.

Some examples of raw unstructured data that you can collect from social profiles include: likes, shares, mentions, impressions, new followers, comments, URL clicks.

12. Collect data from your website analytics

There’s a huge amount of valuable data accessible to you through your website analytics platform. The most popular platform for insights into your website statistics is Google Analytics.

If you aren’t using it, you are missing critical information about your visitors and customers.

Examples of data that you can gather from your website include: visitor’s location, patterns of visitor behavior, keywords used by visitors to find your site and business, visitor’s activities in the site, most popular content, etc.

Also, there are web crawlers, that can help you extract data from any website, including yours.

13. Cookies

Cookies are so popular now and they are a good way for data collection too. A cookie is a mini file that collects some type of user information when the user accesses certain websites.

Cookies help businesses track visitors, personalize landing pages, banners, ads, and can provide different types of information about user’ activities.

Here’s an interesting post to learn more about cookies: What’s 3rd Party Cookie, and how is it used to track users?

14. Internal documents

Every business has a ton of internal documents. In our era of cloud computing, the company’s internal documents are becoming more valuable methods and ways to collect data than ever.

Digitized copies of internal forms are a vigorous source of information when it comes to the business processes. Examples of such as documents are contracts with clients, partners, suppliers, and any other type of Word files, PDF, XML, etc.

There are data mining companies that provide software able to mine any kind of document and file.

Free But Powerful External Methods To Collect Data

External data are any data generated outside the boundaries of the company or organization.

There are many advantages of using external sources of information, especially online ones. They offer endless information which you can acquire efficiently and quickly.

Today, external secondary data is one of the biggest sources of insights as well as a foundation for creating executive decisions wherever it is in business, in medicine, science or in statistics.

Best Free External Data Sources - an infographic

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Let’s break down each external data source from the above infographic.

15. Data.gov

Data.gov provides over free 150,000 datasets available through federal, state and local governments.  They are free, and accessible online.

Here, companies or students can find a ton of data, including information related to consumers, education, manufacturing, public safety, and much more.

For example, one of the databases, the Consumer Complaint Database show you what the biggest complaints are about a particular product or service.

16. World Bank Open Data

World Bank Open Data offer free and open access to global development data. Datasets provide population demographics and a vast number of economic indicators from across the world.

You can use it also for education statistics about everything from finances to logistics to many other area indicators around the world.

17. IMF Economic Data

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries.

It is a great source for data collection on international financial statistics, regional economic reports, foreign exchange rates, debt rates, commodity prices, and investments.

18. Google Finance

Google Finance is a very easy way to gather financial data as real-time stock quotes and charts, financial news, investments, currency conversions, etc.

19. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 

The National Center for Education Statistics is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.

NCES collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.

20. Google Scholar

When it comes to entire texts of academic papers such as journals, books, legal cases, theses, white papers, and court opinions, Google Scholar is a very valuable way for data collection.

21. Social Mention

Social Mention - one of the best way to collect social media data

Social Mention is a popular online social media search and analysis software that aggregates content from across the universe.

It allows you to collect valuable information for what your competitors and your customers are saying across the web’s social media landscape in real-time.

22. Glassdoor

Glassdoor is one of the world’s largest and most popular job and recruiting sites. It provides a free database with millions of company reviews, CEO approval ratings, interview reviews and questions, salary reports, benefits reviews, office photos, and more.

Glassdoor also is useful for competitive market research as gives you answers to questions such as why people like working for particular companies, what the employees of your competitors say, and etc.

23. Google Alerts

Google Alerts is one of the most popular free alert services that allows you to follow mentions on the internet about practically anything you want – company, brand, customers, purchasing patterns, and so on.

Example of other similar services to Google Alerts are Mention and Talkwalker Alerts. They provide even advanced features for tracking mentions in the online landscape.

24. Google Trends

Google Trends - one of the best method to collect data on trending news

Google Trends is a must for those who want to examine and collect data on trending news stories around the world and on internet search activity.

Google Trends is a great online tool that shows you trends in people’s search behavior within Google Search, Google Images, Google News, Google Shopping and YouTube. It is an extremely useful tool for data gathering when it comes to creating a marketing or SEO strategy.

25. Social networks as external ways to collect data

Your own social profiles like those on Facebook and Tweeter are an internal source of data. But the other’s social profiles are great free external sources that provide critical information about who is talking about what, when, where, and why.

In fact, with billion people logs in them, social networks offer an unprecedented amount and diversity of both personal and impersonal information.

Also, the Facebook API, Twitter API, and Instagram API allow you to retrieve data from the networks and to connect your website or application with worldwide conversations.

26. HubSpot

HubSpot offers a large and very valuable free repository of marketing data.

You could find the latest marketing statistics and trends in areas such as Organic Search, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), Ecomerce, Local SEO, Mobile Search, and others.

27. Crunchbase 

Crunchbase - one of the best methods to collect business data

Crunchbase is one of the best and most innovative platforms for finding business information about private and public companies.

Crunchbase data include investments and funding information, news, and industry trends, individuals in leadership positions, mergers, and etc.

Examples of things you can do with Crunchbase: follow companies you care about, find a unique list of companies, access company’s data as web traffic information and mobile app analytics.

28. Octoparse

Octoparse is an incredibly powerful free online tool for scraping any type of web data quickly and easily. Practically, it is so easy that anyone who knows how to browse can scrape.

You can crawl and collect data from unlimited web pages for free. Moreover, Octoparse turns web pages into structured data within clicks!

29. Amazon Public Data Sets

Amazon Public Data Sets is a registry that aims to help people discover and share datasets that are available via AWS resources.

Here you can find large datasets relating to biology, economics, chemistry, and physiology, etc.

30. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is the United States’ primary source for criminal justice statistics.

It collects, analyzes, publishes, and disseminates information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government.

31. Healthdata.gov

Healthdata.gov provides online high-value health data accessible to entrepreneurs, researchers, and policymakers.

The site is a powerful instrument and free method for data collection for companies in that industry and for those operating in other sectors.

Conclusion

There is an enormous range of free data sources available outside and inside your organization, ready to be used and analyzed by any researcher willing to look for them.

Above is a list of the most popular examples, methods and different ways to collect data, but you can find many others in various niches.

Besides that, different websites, apps, and organizations offer an API that provides access to valuable data they collect through that API.

Advanced-thinking businesses and organizations that don’t have the resources to collect primary data have access to free but invaluable secondary data sources that can help them take the right decisions at the right time.

Today, big data is a big deal. It is some kind of fuel able to drive successful management decisions as well as the most powerful technology innovations. Click To Tweet

By collecting and analyzing data, you are able to uncover hidden patterns to understand why particular things happen. Also, with the help of data mining applications, you can predict how things may happen in the future and thus formulate better strategic plans and actions.

What are your best ways to collect data? Share your suggestions with us.

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