By Tamara Irminger Underwood
Brené Brown, the popular author (and professor, researcher, lecturer, podcast host), has amassed a large following with the general public and the business world. Her work explores vulnerability, shame, empathy, and courage and she is skilled at bringing dry, academic research to life. You may be wondering why we’re writing about Ms. Brown, when we’re a market research firm.
It just so happens that Ms. Brown was recently profiled in The New Yorker magazine and while reading the article, a sentence jumped out at us: “…Brown was rare in being a qualitative researcher—rather than using tests and statistics to measure phenomena, she interviewed a diverse group of people about certain subjects and then coded the data, watching for themes to emerge.” For those of us who live, eat, and breathe qualitative research, and are familiar with Ms. Brown’s work, this sentence brought smiles and nods. We understand how qualitative studies can help companies find meaning in data, and clearly, this is part of Ms. Brown’s success too. You first start with lots of data then test your assumptions or hypotheses on focus groups, user interviews, or ethnographies, and then identify the patterns across broader populations.
We occasionally hear people discount qualitative research because it’s not a “real science.” Our response is that qualitative research is rooted in social sciences, and it remains an important tool for academics and researchers to gain deeper insights into the values, motivations, and context around decision-making. The topics that can be explored with qualitative research are endless, and we have designed studies for a wide range of clients. For those who remain unconvinced about the ‘soundness’ of qualitative research, there is always the option of commissioning a quantitative study. Quantitative studies are great for understanding ‘how many’, but not so great at unveiling the ‘how, what, and why’. Don’t get us wrong, quantitative studies are also important, but quantitative results can be better understood and amplified when dovetailed with a qualitative study.
There are lots of qualitative methodologies, besides focus groups, that researchers can use. Depending on the study objective, we may design a qualitative study that uses mobile ethnography apps, in-depth interviews, or biometric feedback. Each study is unique and there is no ‘one size fits all approach’ when designing qualitative or quantitative studies.
Whether you’re an established brand or a start-up, commissioning a market research study is invaluable to your company’s growth and profitability. And the feedback and results we see from our clients consistently show these results: With better products, higher conversions, and more positive customer feedback.
Ever dreamed about becoming a focus group moderator? Or are you looking to expand your skills in qualitative research? Check out the training programs from InterQ Learning Labs.