Unpacking Qualitative Research

Market researchers are tasked with an endless list of responsibilities from their clients these days.

Typically ranging from ambiguous sampling requests to overestimating customer’s privacy sensitivity, even as far as expecting a one-size-fits-all research approach to their required objectives.

Safe to say, the best market researchers can compartmentalize the noise, and conduct solid research in a timely and effective manner for their clients. 

When designing a solid market research approach, the first step is deciding whether to quantify or qualify the insights that will be gathered.

Extracting answers to customer patterns, behaviors, and emotions, through qualitative techniques and market research tools, is much more dynamic a process than at first glance. 

It should also be said that qualitative and quantitative should not replace each other, but instead, complement the unique and valuable components each offer.   

The research question at hand must come to mind first, primarily due to the structure of data collection varying between qualitative and quantitative research.

Qualitative research is largely avoided because of how expensive and obscure it can become. 

Thus, designing with the end in mind is crucial when establishing your research sample size, data collection, questions, and analysis protocol when conducting qualitative experimentation. 

The research plan will take on a more exploratory measure when dealing with qualitative means. The research aims to understand the underlying mechanism which “qualifies” a situation.

Qualitative sample sizes are usually smaller, research is done over a longer period, and objective questions dive deeper. 

Directional Not Definitive  

Market researchers who base their research design largely on the who, what, when, and where of customer decision making, must reroute, to elicit the why and how through the proper insights mix.  

The qualitative research objective of the why and how definitively draws out the underlying reasons and motivations behind behaviors and purchases. 

This kind of data oscillates heavily between emotional and psychoanalytical and can be extremely onerous to interpret.

While it may not be definitive, it surely gives us direction to the deeper emotions involved at the subconscious levels of our consumer.

Qualitative research processes can be clearly defined as useful and effective when business consumers are unaware of certain behaviors or actions. Qualitative research methods will always be preferred when working with unconscious or unknown sectors of consumer behavior.  

These are the micro-insights that qualitative research predicates itself on.

This is the type of information that brands wish to identify with to make impactful changes at all levels of their business practices. 

This qualitative research can take the shape of face-to-face interviews, focus groups, customer visits, shop-alongs, site/product observations, and several different types of ethnographic-like discussions.

These processes encompass a broad range of purposes but inherently drive a residual and emotive response from participants.  

By understanding the drivers, motivations, and cultural trends shaping our customers’ points of view, we are more easily able to communicate with them.

This communication can take the shape of improved perception and a new brand narrative, reinforced by caliber qualitative research. 

Tailoring the Results  

When left with a magnitude of qualitative and open-ended data, analysis to find results can become cumbersome. Presenting the right information to clients is an even harder process as this key information can be like finding a needle in a haystack. 

Qualitative research is lengthy and non-numerical by nature and rightfully so, can easily be tangled. Tangled data is inconsistent and inconsistency can break expensive research resulting in wasted time and money. 

Tailoring our data collection methods is just as important when designing with the end in mind. That which provides answers and fills the gaps for your objective questioning can be considered qualitative research well enacted. 

For everything else in between, there is a strong reason to accommodate the missing results with a succinct and consecutive round of quantitative research.

This approach would take into consideration our qualitative findings and effectively create an even stronger case study for our research. 

For an in depth look at the value of market research, click here