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While there are numerous crucial decisions to consider when conducting market research, the most important is whether or not to conduct quantitative or qualitative research.

In short, the term “quantitative market research” refers to gathering vast amounts of data using questionnaires, surveys, and polling techniques. However, qualitative research determines customers’ motivations by close observation, usually in small groups or in face-to-face interaction.

The thing that makes the decision between these two options even more difficult is that many individuals conducting market research, whether for their employer or as consultants, aren’t well-versed in both methodologies. Therefore, they go to the method they are comfortable with regardless of whether it’s the most effective option. Although their approach may incorporate qualitative and quantitative methods, there may be an unintentional bias toward specific tactics and strategies, which can result in the results anything from unsatisfactory and even outright deceiving.

One way to ensure that you aren’t going down the wrong path — thereby compromising the research effort and investment is to determine objectively whether a quantitative or qualitative approach or integrated approach (and If this is the case, in what percentage and for what reason) is necessary.

Below are some guidelines of a high level that will guide this vital choice.

 

Quantitative Research

The goal of quantitative studies is to discover reliable statistical and standardized data to answer critical business issues like “Is there a strong market for our product?” or “How many of our target customers care about this benefit?”

In most cases, most quantitative research data for primary research is collected via surveys or questionnaires. Methods for collecting quantitative data typically depend on closed-ended questions that provide insights. The sample of respondents for research should be sufficient, and attention must be given to ensure participation of the audience.

For instance, using mobile surveys to gather quantitative data will substantially exclude those not on the mobile panel. Conducting surveys using landline telephones is likely to significantly exclude almost two-thirds of households who entirely or mainly use mobile phones.

However, capturing data is only one aspect of the research puzzle. Business intelligence has to be organized, analyzed, and then communicated to decision-makers (e.g. executives, board members, directors of marketing, R&D managers, business owners, etc.) to make it valuable and reliable. The majority of businesses — and almost all small companies do not have the capacity and technology to accomplish this task in-house.

 

Qualitative Research

Qualitative studies aim to dig deeper into understanding emotional and motivational factors that influence customers. In this regard, quantitative research is mostly about what “what” of customer behaviour,and qualitative research focuses on research into the “why.” This approach helps uncover why people like or dislike the brand, what makes them like specific marketing campaigns and not like others, and why they are motivated by the actual behaviour of consumers.

There are numerous methods to conduct qualitative studies, including focus groups or bulletin boards on the internet and in-depth interviews. 

There are pros and cons to different strategies and methods. However, skilled moderators are able to manage each technique to ensure the best outcomes. Since the number of participants is less, it’s essential to adjust the method to prevent bias, or you’ll end up having a wealth of information but insufficient actionable information.

 

3 Questions to Help Make the Right Decision

In addition to the data mentioned above, it’s useful to consider these three questions to aid in an informed decision-making procedure:

Does this market study to test a hypothesis or to investigate the perceptions of consumers?

To test your hypotheses, quantitative research offers you the necessary sample size to determine whether or not you agree. Qualitative research is able to provide deep and open-ended understandings of perceptions without forcing participants to an either-or.

Are the findings of the study merely meant to assess opinions or a deep understanding of why customers hold particular views of the aim?

To assess opinions, qualitative research is the most appropriate choice. Suppose you want to understand perceptions that reveal the conscious or even unconscious methods people use to think and draw conclusions regarding a subject. In that case, it is your most appropriate option.

Can the key findings from this study be utilized to understand an entire audience better, or would a diagram of an individual’s experience be more useful?

If your goal is to provide a crucial conclusion about a wider population, you require quantitative research. If your goal is to provide a detailed picture of the experiences of an individual, qualitative research is necessary.

 

Integrated Market Research

A typical and comprehensive market research program comprises qualitative and quantitative techniques as they each provide useful perspectives and can be combined to produce practical insight. The best mix depends on the specific requirements for business decision-making, impact, and the timeframe, scope, and budget. There isn’t an all-inclusive answer or template, and the process should never be based on the information the market researcher or consultant knows about (or knows how to apply). The choice should depend on what the business demands and the integrity of the project needs.