In market research – and in the wider world of business research – quantitative and qualitative research are the main segments that research is divided into. In quantitative research, a company commissions surveys, will study data from a large databases of respondents, and will seek to understand broader patterns within a population of customers or prospects.
Qualitative research, in contrast, is the face-to-face market research category. Qualitative research takes smaller samples of people, and through comprehensive interviews, the process seeks to understand opinions, nuances in behavior, and motivations.
The two forms of research used to be very separate – many market research companies would only specialize in one form of research, for example. However, most market research is now a combination of both methods, and researchers use the data to more thoroughly understand the population being studied.
Here is a brief breakdown of what you could expect to learn from quantitative and qualitative research.
Market research: Quantitative
In quantitative market research, here are defining characteristics:
- Large sample sizes, which may be divided into subgroups, such as age, geography, or job title
- Data is typically gathered through pre-prepared questionnaires, and all of the respondents within a subgroup are asked the same questions
- Quantitative research captures an aggregate of individual responses – in other words, respondents don’t have reference to other participants’ answers. All responses are collated
- The questions tend to probe into more rational/surface beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors
- Statistics and numerical measurement are used to analyze the data
- The results can be used to benchmark against findings in the industry/subgroup
Market Research: Qualitative
In qualitative research, the key components are:
- Smaller sample sizes – may be representative of the population as a whole or taken from a subset who is critical to the core business question
- Person-centered, meaning that qualitative research examines subjective ideas, such as opinions, motivations, and ideas
- The interaction between the research participant and market researcher is more informal – questions are asked in an open-ended, conversational format, leading to more spontaneous and creative responses
- Qualitative research aims to get beyond “top of mind” responses and understand emotional and intuitive impressions
- Qualitative research covers a wide variety of methodologies, including focus groups, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic research
- The data takes much longer to interpret and synthesize. It is analyzed though transcripts and coded into themes and insights
At InterQ, we use a combination of both quantitative and qualitative methods. Based on the study parameters, we’ll design the project to specifically capture insights from real customers and prospects and combine the findings with larger statistical patterns within the market sample.