We live in an era of constant numbers, charts, and statistics. Big Data is seemingly everywhere. Qualitative research is one of the few disciplines that remains pure. Qualitative research seeks to understand – through person-to-person interviews – how and why people think and behave the way that they do. Granted, qualitative research has adapted to the digital age, and we now have the option to conduct panels online and receive mobile feedback, but even with digital methods, the essence remains the same: Take a small sample size, spend time with the individuals, and learn about their impressions and motivations.
Qualitative research, as a whole, is less easy to define than quantitative research, which measures the proportion of a population who thinks or behaves in a certain way. In qualitative market research, we explore the what, why, and how rather than how many. We seek to understand meaning, rather than simply measure. The insights we gain from qualitative methods can and do transform how a business operates; our findings affect not only branding and messaging, but product development, positioning, pricing, and customer service. Investing in qualitative marketing research is an investment that pays for itself many times over, and it’s one of the most effective ways for companies to get an objective view on how and why their customers think and behave the way that they do.
Qualitative research has its roots in the social sciences – disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, and sociology have refined the methodology and created frameworks that have been translated to the faster-paced business world. At InterQ, we were trained in the academic method of qualitative research, so each study design, survey structure, and qualitative coding process goes through our rigorous methodology, but instead of spending a year or years studying a topic, as the academic world does, we modify our tactics to fit into compressed timelines designed to give companies answers that they can quickly act upon.
The most common qualitative methodologies that we employ include focus groups, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic research. We often design studies using a blend of these styles, and we almost always layer our qualitative research with quantitative data to help us understand our findings within a larger statistical context.