Quantitative Vs. Qualitative Research: Both Deliver Insights

A good market research tool is like a really good suit: To get the most out of your investment, you first need to make sure it’s properly tailored.

Tailoring research is about determining not only what you might need to measure, but what you might need to explore. Both quantitative and qualitative research can bring deeper knowledge of consumer mindsets and add value to your marketing equation. Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you plan your research project.

First, credibility and objectivity are paramount. That’s why it’s important to engage a third-party professionally-trained research partner to help design and guide the research process.  Explore in detail the expertise, knowledge and resources your research project manager brings to your assignment. Don’t hesitate to check references.

Understand that quantitative research is the “how many” translation of a given exploration and that qualitative is the “perceptive” or “experience” framing of a circumstance. Both approaches have the potential to deliver valuable insights, depending on project needs.

The quantitative approach involves identifying customer segments by measurable characteristics and exploring reportable differences by geography or any multiple of descriptors important to the assignment. It provides specific numeric valuations to data points or findings. Whether the data is used to associate consumer segment movement (up or down) or to predict action, (buy or won’t buy) the findings can be viewed as a reportable metric in time.

Qualitative research differs from quantitative research in its methodology and in the assumptions used for the analysis of the assignment. Qualitative research is used to inform action and enhance decision making; it is inductive. In qualitative explorations, the researcher looks at events and people holistically; they are not reduced to variables. The understanding delivered by qualitative research can often shape messages, tone and sequence of a strategy. Marketing research projects may often begin with qualitative explorations to ensure the original offering and its messaging is understandable and meets the perceived need of the customer.

Qualitative research can take the shape of focus groups, small group or individual depth interviews. It is important that clients include at least two focus groups for project discovery to protect the inquiry from being too heavily influenced by a narrowing participant segment. It’s rare, but there are occasions where a single “rogue” group might potentially misdirect research findings.

Today’s technology gives clients online access to consumer and technical panels as well as web-based deployments of surveys. Survey Monkey is a popular tool but there are many other platforms available. With online research it is not uncommon to deploy a sample test (beta-testing) to ensure the survey design is meeting the project needs.

An experienced, credentialed research partner can coach you on the benefits of quantitative and qualitative explorations and ensure the project outcome brings the absolute most value to your marketing.

By Virginia Roth Chief Branding & Strategy Officer