The words “qualitative” and “quantitative” research are used a lot, but what do they really mean? When and why should you consider one over the other?
Online Qualitative Market Research
Qualitative market research helps you answer the why. It focuses on revealing people's attitudes, behaviors, values, motivations and lifestyles influences. It is research to help you gain a clearer understanding of the decision making process. This form of research generally derives its data from a relatively small group of participants.
Real-time online focus groups, online website usability testing, and one-on-one interviews are examples of this type of data collection. Qualitative marketing research is great for gathering top line feedback, like what kind of thoughts, feelings, or associations consumers have with a product, service, brand or media channel.
For example, qualitative research can be used to determine how people feel about a particular package redesign. The opinions and reactions provide invaluable feedback, which either validates or dispel design assumptions.
Often the data gained from a qualitative research study is used to formulate the objectives of a quantitative study or online survey. After a small online group of participants are questioned to find out their thoughts and feelings, the resulting data can easily be used to determine which questions should be asked in an online survey.
In other instances, online qualitative research such as online focus groups is useful in developing a deeper understanding of the kinds of thoughts and emotions that drive consumer purchasing decisions. This kind of insight can then be used guide creative development in advertising campaigns.
When is qualitative research not the best option?
As useful as qualitative information is, there are times when an online qualitative study will not deliver the insights you need. For one, there isn't really a way to statistically substantiate people's emotions or feelings. Reliable statistical analysis requires a larger sample group that is representative of the population as a whole. The sample groups used in most online qualitative research are too small for the data to be reliably applied across the general population. The information gleaned from them is generally of a more emotive or personal nature.
For example, if one 41 year old woman in an one-on-one interview says that she prefers green packaging to blue packaging because she associates green with nature and the environment, it isn't likely that this data can be confidently applied to the majority of 41 year old women. In this case, the data taken from this qualitative study helps narrow down the questioning which should be included in an online survey. Without the insight gleaned from the interview, there is a risk of designing online survey questions based on unsupported assumptions rather than fact.
Online Quantitative Market Research
Quantitative marketing research, often associated with online surveys, derives its data from a much larger sample group. This means you gather responses from a larger number of participants. A large enough sample to make accurate assumptions about all people in the target audience. In most instances it would be time consuming and costly to interview everyone in your target audience. An online survey made up of a sample of people from the larger target audience generally provides the information accuracy needed to make informed decisions about the whole audience, or population.
For example, quantitative research can be used to determine how many people between the ages of 18-26 prefer lemon lime soda to colas. This kind of data is extremely useful when defining the demographic profile of the target market. It will also provide the insights needed to define the size of any given market and the percentage of the customer currently satisfied with a product or service.
Insights gained by using quantitative marketing research techniques can be used to determine how and when to advertise. After the release of a new ad campaign, an online quantitative study, in the form of a online survey, can gauge how effective the campaign was in promoting brand awareness. This kind of data can't always be meaningfully extrapolated from a small qualitative research group such as an online focus group. Which would be better used to pre-test or validate the creative content of the advertising campaign.
There are times when the general data gained from a large sample group isn't going to be useful. Trying to extract insights you would normally reveal in an online focus group from online surveys would be expensive and complex. When you need to gather top-line reactive feedback, a qualitative research study, such as a online focus group or one on one interview, is the better option.
For example, knowing that sixty percent of people between the ages of 18-26 prefer lemon lime soda to colas doesn't explain the why. It does not reveal the underlying behavioral motivations. But what it does do is reveal the path of questioning you should take during an online focus group or one on one interview.
It is clear that its not always possible to build a complete picture by relying on one form of online market research.
- Online qualitative research is useful for deciding what kind of questions to ask in quantitative research - online surveys.
- Online quantitative research is useful in deciding what kind of people should make up a qualitative research group - online focus group.
Because the sample groups in qualitative research are smaller, it is generally less expensive than quantitative research. Unfortunately, there is no way to substitute one form of research for the other. Both forms of research have their place, and it's important to consider using both.
Group Quality, the complete online market research toolkit, is the ideal one stop solution for conducting both online qualitative and online quantitative research.