Industry Research Basics
This guide lists the most essential resources to use when conducting industry research. It is designed to get the business researcher started in the right direction. Please note that this guide is neither complete nor comprehensive, as new information will be added as necessary. For more specific industry suggestions, take a look at my guides on select industries.
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There are several factors that will determine the availability of industry information. These are discussed below.
Type/Size of Industry
The type and size of the industry will determine how much information you will be able to find about a particular industry. For example, it will be much easier to find information about larger industries such as computer hardware or automobile industries, as opposed to finding information about a smaller industry such as candle making. Questions to consider when determining the size of an industry:
- How specialized is the industry?
- How many companies make up the industry?
- How large is the market for the industry?
Location of an Industry
The location of the industry will also play a part in finding information. As a general rule, it will be easier to find information about an American Industry as opposed to industries in other countries. This is basically a result of the fact that most of our business resources come from U.S. content providers. However, due to the global nature of business, more international industry information is becoming more available.
Also note that even within the United States, industry information for specific locations may be difficult to find. Information about national industry trends is more available than information about the same industry in a particular state or region.
About Industry Codes
Industry classification codes are used to organize industries by numbers. NAICS and SIC are two types of codes that many databases and resources use. Please note that the Standard Industrial Classification System(SIC) were last updated in 1987, as they have been replaced by the North American Industrial Classification System(NAICS). However, many databases and resources (such as Encyclopedia of American Industries) still use SIC codes. NAICS codes are particularly useful in looking for information in the Economic Census. To find a NAICS code for your particular industry, visit the NAICS code website. To learn more about how to use industry codes, take a look at What are NAICS and SIC industry codes and how do I use them?
Industry Overviews or Industry Surveys are a great place to look when you need a broad overview of a particular industry. This kind of information tends to be a little broad, and most resources will only cover the larger industries. Industry Surveys or Overviews may cover United States or global industries, depending on the resource.
Encyclopedia of American Industries
Encyclopedia of American Industries is a great place for short overviews of industries. This resource has really good coverage for most American Industries. It is an online encyclopedia and is organized by SIC codes. This resource was published in 2008, so note that the data may be from 2006-2007. Nevertheless, it is a great resource to use to understand the history of an industry and how the industry works.
IBISWorld Industry Market Research
IBISWorld Industry Market Research contains in-depth, regularly updated industry reports for over 700 United States industries. Each report contains Key Statistics, Segmentation, Market Characteristics, Industry Conditions, Key Factors, Key Competitors, Industry Performance, and Outlook.
Mergent Online Industry Reports
Mergent Online Industry Reports are another good source for industry overviews. Like the S&P Surveys above, the Mergent Reports cover the only the largest industries. Each report averages about 45 pages, and Mergent Online Industry Reports cover United States, European, Asian, and Global industries. This resource is also good for finding current industry trends and statistics.
Plunkett Research Online
Plunkett Research Online is an excellent resource for industry overviews and statistics. For each industry Plunkett Research contains Market Research & Trends, Statistics, Company Profiles, Associations and Organizations, Company Contacts, and Glossary.
Market Research Reports
Market research reports are an excellent source for industry information. Market research reports will often cover more narrow industries than the more broad industry overview resources. In many cases, market research reports are regularly updated.
Mintel Oxygen offers market research reports covering US and International marketplace. The reports combine data & analysis of the competitive landscape, market-share analysis and consumer profiles. Specific sections to look at in this database are the Market Drivers, Market Size and Trends, Market Segmentation, Supply Structure, and Future and Forecast sections. The database is searchable by keyword, and can be browsed by industry and product category. Please note that Mintel requires users to create a personal profile before using this database.
Passport offers comprehensive coverage of international consumer markets, consumer lifestyles in other countries, economic statistics, demographic forecasting, and more. If you are researching an international consumer or service market, definitely look here first.
Mediamark Reporter “offers comprehensive demographic, lifestyle, product usage, and media data collected from a single sample. These data provide strategic insights, consumer targeting, brand trial/loyalty, promotional opportunities, and trade marketing.” While used mostly for marketing and advertising research, this database does provide useful industry information, such as consumer buying habits and demographics. Please note that this database requires users to complete a free registration process. Note: The data found in Mediamark Reporter is from the previous year. In other words, in 2009 we have access to the 2007 data.
Business Source Complete
Business Source Complete contains market research reports and industry profiles as well. The easiest way to find reports on a particular industry is to do a keyword search for the industry. Just above the search results there will be a link to limit the search to Market Research Reports or Industry Profiles.
The Economic Census is perhaps one of the best places to look for basic industry statistics. The Economic Census has data by NAICS codes for the entire United States and also for states, counties, and metropolitan areas.
The Passport is a great place to look for statistics on consumer products. If you are doing research on a consumer product industry, GMID is an excellent source for measuring consumer demand.
Industry Ratios are good to use in order to benchmark companies in a particular industry. There are several resources available for looking at industry ratios. Take a look at the guide to finding Financial Ratios for more information.
Industry News, Journal, and Magazine Articles
Trade Publications are a great source for industry information, as they are published by and for people in a particular industry. For example, if you needed to know the top-ten refrigerated trucking companies in the U.S., the place to look would be in a trade publication called Refrigerated Transporter. Trade publications are in a number of databases, but the best place to find them is in Business Source Complete
Other Industry News
The popular press, including newspapers and magazines, often offers very recent coverage of an industry. While not as comprehensive as trade publications, news articles can be a good way to find information on your topic, particularly for those smaller niche industries. For Business and Industry news, try LexisNexis Academic or Factiva. For tips on looking for industry news, take a look at the LexisNexis and Factiva for Industry News video.
Industry and Trade Associations
Industry and trade associations are very similar to trade publications, as they contain information from groups and individuals who are part of the industry. You might find trade or industry associations by doing a simple Google search.