Market research allows business decision makers to account for consumer, market insights and data to make informed business strategy. Qualitative and quantitative research form the two essential pillars of a robust market research effort. Quantitative research refers to the analysis of structured data collected through surveys, polling methods and experiments to draw objective conclusions. So, if the purpose of the study is to answer questions such as
“How many people from my target audience would respond to a new service?”, or “How many people could become potential customers?”, then insights gathered from a representative population would answer such business questions. Quantitative research also relies on the effective organisation, analysis and communication of the insights to the executive business leaders. On the other hand, qualitative research is motivated by the need to dig deeper into the ‘why’ of the objective insights, such as “Why do people like this particular new service?”. Qualitative research facilitates subjective conclusions from focus groups, observations and interviews. The purpose of qualitative research is to deliver insights drawn from closely observing potential or existing customers and uncover their motivations for particular decisions and actions.
Smart tip from TSB: A holistic mix of the “what” from quantitative research and the “why” from qualitative analysis delivers actionable business insights.
Use cases for qualitative market research
Now that we have looked at what qualitative research is, we will dig deeper into when to consider this tool as part of the market research process. Qualitative market research is useful if;
The purpose of the research is to explore open ended learning and there is a requirement for detailed explanations of observed facts or decisions.
The researcher wishes to explore the conscious and unconscious perceptions that drive consumer decisions and opinions.
The goal is to explore the nuances of brand/ platform/ product experiences and feedback of individual consumers
What's your rationale for such research?
While these are the broad objectives that the concerned organisation needs to evaluate to conduct qualitative market research, the study has wide applications across different organisational strategic objectives.
Techniques to conduct qualitative research Qualitative research can be conducted through the following methods;
It is important to understand research objectives before deciding on conducting market research. Each research study should begin with a desired conclusion in mind so that resources spent preparing and conducting the study are not squandered, and it aids in business agility. Hence, once the motivation for conducting qualitative market research is uncovered, the next steps would be;
Overall, qualitative market research provides insights that look past surface-level metrics, are more flexible to the researcher’s needs, can be great idea generators and ensure enhanced customer retention if implemented successfully. Nonetheless, qualitative market research can be costly and time consuming. The accuracy of the insights can be challenged due to its reliance on only a small sample of the population. Additionally, there could be various sources of bias among the participants or researchers that influences the quality of the responses.
Now let us look at a real-life case study. A leading European FMCG brand needed to understand the perception of energy drinks among the adult population. The company wanted to understand the market for its proposed new product in the UK, Scotland and Ireland. The Strategy Boutique (TSB) came on board to evaluate this market. TSB is a management consulting firm with extensive experience and expertise in the field of market research. The company has assisted brands and organisations across different industries, fashion, cosmetics, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, automobile, real estate, among others to derive actionable market insights. The team conducted qualitative and quantitative research methods to further understand the market for energy drinks in the region. As part of the qualitative market research efforts, local associates collected data about the preferences of consumers in the age group of 16-45 year olds. The objective was to understand the need and motivation for buying energy drinks, preferred flavours, packaging, size, as well as sales channels. Furthermore, consumers were questioned about their current pain points and brand affiliations. The research findings informed the leading brand’s sales and distribution strategy, marketing plan and promotional strategy. Key insights from the market research also influenced the product development efforts.
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