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Quantitative vs. Qualitative Market Research and Why You Need Both

Market research is crucial to seeing the environment your business operates in, but it can be difficult to know where to start, much less mount a truly effective campaign. One challenge is choosing the best methods to use. Let’s review the two main research methods, their best uses, and how they work together to give you truly insightful results over the long run.

Quantitative Research—Getting the numbers right

If you’ve ever seen a news story about the latest political polling, you’ve seen the results of quantitative research. It’s called quantitative because it involves quantifiable, objective data, and it can lead to accurate, objective conclusions.

This type of research usually relies on questionnaires and surveys with a series of closed questions. By “closed” we mean the opposite of “open-ended.” Though good quantitative surveys do include some open-ended questions most answers will take forms like these:

● Yes or no

● A number-based answer (“How many times do you purchase this product in a typical month?”)

● A number on a 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 rating scale

● A word-based rating such as “strongly disagree, satisfied, highly satisfied,” etc.

● A word-based answer that expresses a hard fact instead of an opinion, such as “What model did you purchase?”

A survey can be delivered in any number of ways, whether face to face, via web-based services like SurveyMonkey, over the phone, or by giving the survey respondent a number to call.

Quantitative surveys are excellent for:

● Pre-launch market research

● Price setting

● Customer satisfaction

● Segmentation

● A/B Testing

● Seeing changes in attitude over time, which is why they feature in political polling.

Another benefit of quantitative surveys is that the ability to boil the responses down to numbers makes it possible to see cause and effect more clearly. There's a reason so many major retail and food service corporations include a survey phone number or QR code on their register receipts. As they serve millions each day, even a small response rate provides mountains of data they can analyze to see trends in customer relations.

Not all quantitative data comes from surveys. Any data from a reliable, objective, measurable source—such as website visits, downloads, or even sales data for particular products or locations—can be analyzed for important patterns.

Qualitative Research—For insights beyond the numbers

While quantitative research is about gaining insight from data, qualitative research gains insight from observation and inquiry. Usually, it’s derived from focus groups or individual interviews.

Qualitative research is best for understanding motives and experiential details. It’s not strictly about exploring emotions but can reveal how customer behavior (and views of your brand) are tied to emotional states and do so in ways even the best quantitative survey can’t.

In addition to giving you insight to motives and emotions, quantitative research can help you:

● Predict how a new offering will fit into the typical customer’s life or business activities

● Reveal the issues that are driving phenomena you’re seeing in quantitative data. For example, learning why sales for a particular product are higher or lower in a certain market segment.

● Gain a broader understanding of the customer’s relationship with your brand beyond purchase decisions, allowing you to improve their experience across your whole enterprise.

The value of these insights is a good reason to include an open-ended qualitative question or two in every quantitative survey. At the very least, surveys should include an “additional comments” section where a respondent can provide insights you might not receive otherwise.

Using both types to get the best results

Qualitative and quantitative research aren’t just two sides of the same coin, they can be used in a cycle in which one refines the other.

The information gleaned from focus groups can help you choose better questions for your quantitative inquiries. After a round of quantitative data gathering and analysis, you will have opportunities to fill in context that makes it clear why you’re seeing the behavior reflected in that data; for this, you’ll need qualitative research.

As each method gives you information and shows you what you should be seeking with the other, your picture of your market becomes more clear at every step, empowering you to make better decisions and better serve your customers.

Looking for help with market research?

At V2, we’ve provided full service marketing for over 25 years, and can provide the expertise you need. Get in touch with us today, and let’s see how we can improve your market research together.


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