When companies hire nationwide market research firms to conduct research on their behalf, the researcher needs to first determine if the objective of the study requires a qualitative or quantitative approach, or both. There is sometimes confusion by the client about what each type of study is most appropriate for, and it’s helpful to be reminded of the differences and also how they complement each other.
In a nutshell, qualitative research is exploratory and helps researchers gain insights to underlying motivations, reasons, and opinions. These insights may then help shape ideas or hypothesis that can be tested with larger audiences using quantitative methodologies. When a market researcher wants to discover patterns in thoughts and opinions, or delve deeper into a problem, then a qualitative study is best suited to unearth such findings. Typical methodologies used with qualitative studies include focus groups, in-depth interviews, and ethnographies. The good news about continuing with market research studies during disruptions due to Covid-19 is these methodologies are able to be done on online platforms and don’t require face-to-face interactions. Qualitative studies are typically small, and while there are fewer people to recruit, it doesn’t change the importance of working with market research recruitment consultants to find the best-qualified participants.
An easy way to remember how quantitative research differs from qualitative research is to think of quantity and quantification. Quantitative research quantifies problems by generating data that can be converted into understandable statistics. The best outcomes require a larger quantity of participants. It quantifies opinions, behaviors, attitudes, and other defined variables, but doesn’t qualify them. Typical examples of quantitative research include surveys, online or telephone interviews, polls, and background tracking of online behavior (abandoned shopping carts, browsing history, page clicks, etc.)
The table below quickly shows the side-by-side distinctions between qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
|Qualitative Methods||Quantitative Methods|
|Methodologies include focus groups, in-depth interviews, and ethnographies||Methodologies include surveys; polls, structured interviews and observations; and reviews of records or documents for numeric information|
|Helps shape processes to formulate ‘essential question’ or hypotheses||Mostly a deductive process to test pre-specified constructs, concepts, and hypotheses that make up a theory|
|Subjective: insights gleaned from qualitative studies help describe problems or opinions from the those experiencing it first hand||More objective: data can be statistically categorized and more visually categorized, but is still subject to researcher evaluation.|
|Text-based. A lot of data that requires transcription services.||Number-based. Mathematical skills required to accurately interpret data.|
|More in-depth information on fewer cases||Less in-depth but information across a large number of cases provides more breadth|
|Open-ended response options||Fixed-response options. No interpretation required|
|No statistical tests used to assess the data||Statistical tests are used for analyzing data|
|Validity and reliability of data is highly dependent on the skill and rigor of the researcher||Validity and reliability is largely dependent on the statistical analyses tools implemented to interpret data|
|Recruitment efforts require more attention to quality of recruits, since fewer overall participants||Recruitment efforts are spent recruiting a lot of participants. Working with a nationwide recruitment agency is the quickest way to reach the larger audiences required for these studies|
|Less generalizable||More generalizable|
Regardless of which type of study ends up being conducted, the core of any successful market research study remains the same: Hire a qualified nationwide market research firm that partners with a renown market research recruitment agency to fill your study. Market research is too complex and nuanced to try and manage internally. For market studies to have any meaningful information, it’s best to partner with experienced professionals.