Statistics, data & trends

Are you looking for specific statistics on a particular market or population? Or are you looking for trends in an industry? Here are key sources and things to look out for.

What is the difference?
The terms statistics and data are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between these two terms.
Think of data as the raw/unprocessed numbers or as a set of collected information. You can think of numbers of registered members of a football club or visitor numbers at a pop concert.

Statistics refer to how the data has been interpreted and summarised; the meaning given to the data, for example presented in graphs or tables or expressed as averages or percentages.

(Many websites provide not only the data, but also the statistics).

In the case of trends, you look at longer-term developments (in a market).


Suppose you are searching for trends in the Dutch clothing market in recent years, but you find information about the German second-hand clothing market via Google in an article from 2015.... Does this article then help answer your question?
It is quite difficult to determine whether an article is relevant or not.

Things to look out for:
- Is the sector similar to the one you are looking at (clothing market vs second-hand clothing market)?
- Is the region comparable to the region you are looking in (Netherlands vs Germany)?
- is the age of the article recent enough (now vs 2015)?
- is the information reliable enough to use? (databases vs Google)

'Similar' and 'recent' are of course subjective terms. In fact, it very much depends on the sector/region/age and your assignment (and teacher). If a market has changed a lot in recent years, you would prefer more recent information than, say, 2015. Especially if both the sector, region and age are not a good match for your assignment, then an article is probably not worthwhile. If you are in doubt about this, contact your tutor.


Even when searching for statistics, data or trends, it is important to remain critical what the source behind the information is. Is the information coming from a company, put at the top by Google as an advertisement? Will that information be neutrally worded or are they steering you in a certain direction? In the databases/sources below, the information is neutral and reliable.
Can't find the information in those sources? There are many more websites with information, but be extra critical of the source. A good place to check: Does the country you are looking for information about have a national statistics website (like CBS/Statline in the Netherlands)? To find this, you can Google "national statistics [country you are curious about]".


Industry classifications

Industry classifications are used to classify companies based on their economic activities. Classification can be done in several ways.


Based on Economic sectors

At the highest level, they are often classified according to the three-sector theory into economic sectors: primary (extraction and harvesting of natural resources), secondary (construction, manufacturing and processing) and tertiary (services). After this level, the classification splits into industries with similar functions, markets or products.


Based on Product

Industries can also be classified directly by product. For example: construction industry, chemical industry, petroleum industry, automotive industry, electronic industry, hospitality industry, food industry, entertainment industry, etc. 


Different systems

Famous classification systems are the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) and the SIC (Standard Industrial Classification manual). In the REACH database, you can use the following systems to find all companies from one sector:   

An example is NAICS code 4422: it is internationally agreed that this includes all 'Home Furnishing' companies here, such as IKEA.  

Statistical classifications

Statistical classifications are used to produce reliable, comparable and methodologically sound statistics. 

You may come across these famous classifications:


HS-code (Harmonised commodity and coding System)

Harmonised system (HS) codes are commonly used throughout the commodity export process. The Harmonised System is a standardised numeric method of classifying traded products. It is used by customs authorities around the world to identify products when determining duties and taxes and for collecting statistics.


SBI code

The Dutch SBI code is a national statistical code used by, among others, Statistics Netherlands (database Statline), the Dutch Chamber of Commerce and the database CompanyInfo. 


Other national classification systems

Here you can find lists of national classification systems used elsewhere.


Indicators are also often used in marketing research. Indicators are standardised ways of expressing something. A simple example is the 'busy indicator' in the 9292 app. No matter which means of transport it is about, 9292 shows you how busy it normally is on that bus or train.

In the Business sector, many Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are used. Well-known marketing KPIs include

- Return on Investment (ROI),
- Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV), or
- Social Media Engagement.

Wondering what exactly an indicator means/does or how it is calculated? Then take a look if it is explained in the New Palgrave Dictionary for Economics.  


Books and Journals