There is no shortage of data that companies rely on gain insight into their consumers and market positioning. Most every purchase or ‘click’ is quantified, measured, and parsed out into charts and statistics. This quantitative data is invaluable, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture regarding the customer journey or experience. This is where qualitative research comes in. Since most people don’t express their everyday perceptions and emotions on scales of ‘one-to-ten,’ qualitative research can assist in helping tell parts of the story that are hard to quantify.
When conducting market research, qualitative methodologies are often employed as the first step, as it most quickly gets to the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind consumers’ decision-making processes. Qualitative insight research looks ‘behind the curtain’ and can illuminate the reasons why consumers feel, react, think, and behave in specific ways. Qualitative research is the quickest way to get a better view of the motives behind consumers’ spending and decision-making patterns.
Qualitative research consultants rely on such tried-and-true methodologies as focus groups and in-depth interviews. Additional methodologies include mobile ethnographies, and online focus groups. Regardless of the qualitative methodology chosen, the process remains largely the same: recruit the best qualified participants (often with the help of a nationwide recruitment agency); spend time with the participants, either in a group or individually; and ask questions that probe their motivations and impressions. Sample sizes for qualitative research tend to be small because the objective is to create a final report to the client that includes deliverables useful to strategy and marketing teams.
One reason qualitative research remains relevant is that it is adaptable and flexible. It can be shaped in many different ways and bring life to quantitative data.
4 Areas Best Served by Qualitative Market Research
Some people are still confused as to when to use qualitative research rather than quantitative research. Here are four areas that are best served by qualitative research.
- Exploring the gaps: If customers are having trouble articulating or are misunderstanding the use or information of a product, then qualitative research can help identify these gaps.
- Actual Use or Perception: It isn’t uncommon for products or campaigns to be developed in a vacuum. Learning about a product’s actual use, or the perception of a product or brand, can be discovered through qualitative research.
- Contextualization: Consumers don’t make decisions or interact with a product or service in a vacuum. Qualitative research can contextualize the motivations, challenges, and decision points.
- Explanation: If your company finds itself wondering why consumers are making one choice, when less costly options are available, then qualitative research can help explain the reasons.
Working with a nationwide qualitative research firm gives companies a more objective view of their customers’ lived experiences and can better probe the ‘how’ and ‘why’. Think of qualitative research as an investment that pays substantial dividends. Investing in qualitative research can affect branding, product development, messaging, pricing, positioning, product launch, and customer service. Qualitative research can be transformative.
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