There are two types of market research: quantitative and qualitative. While both types are valuable to businesses for strategic planning and market insights, they are not interchangeable. You’ll learn very different things from a qualitative study than you would a quantitative study. Let’s explore the differences and similarities between quantitative and qualitative research.
Qualitative market research unveils motivations, opinions, and nuances in consumer behaviour, all of which influences purchasing decisions. Qualitative market research is more granular and is commonly built around focus groups, in-depth interviews, mobile ethnographies, and observation. On the flip side, quantitative market research offers up a more aerial view of trends and patterns, and is often conducted through surveys, polls, and questionnaires. Quantitative methodologies are used when trying to identify patterns in a lot of data. Quantitative market research often drives the focus on qualitative research. If the budget allows, market researches will sometimes design a quantitative study that identifies certain patterns (demographic, consumption, geographic, etc.) and from this researchers can drill down and learn more of the subtleties with a qualitative study. A quick way to think about the differences between quantitative and qualitative market research, is quantitative studies measure “how many” while qualitative studies measure “how and why”.
Qualitative Market Research Characteristics
— Qualitative market research is focused on individuals and is subjective. Researchers analyze data from qualitative studies and look for patterns within a recruited population.
— Qualitative research deals with much smaller sample sizes. Focus groups tend to have between 6-10 recruited participants per focus group.
— There is more time in qualitative studies for the researcher or moderator to ask open-ended questions, which many times prompts imaginative and insightful responses. Focus groups tend to be more relaxed and moderators have latitude in following unexpected tangents that may lead to ‘aha’ moments.
— Qualitative research studies are better at capturing participants’ intuitive and emotional impressions by going deeper than ‘top-of-mind’ responses.
Quantitative Market Research Characteristics
— Because quantitative research often has large sample sizes, researchers will sort the data into categories to make it more manageable to analyze. Large sample sizes are required in order to detect meaningful patterns within a population, or subset.
— The large quantity of data is analyzed by statistical or numerical measurements.
— Quantitative study results are often used to measure against findings in a population, subgroup, or industry.
The common denominator between quantitative and qualitative market research is recruiting qualified participants. Market research is meaningless if careful consideration isn’t given to who should participate. Given the importance of finding qualified people to fill a study, many market research companies work closely with a nationwide market research recruiting firm. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for hundreds of people to participate in a quantitative study, or dozens to fill a qualitative study, recruiting takes time and management. Researchers know that outsourcing recruiting to a qualified recruiting firm saves them time and money.