Quantitative Vs. Qualitative Marketing Research

You can split marketing research techniques into two basic types — quantitative and qualitative research. Read on to learn the differences between the two.

Quantitative research relies upon objective numbers, statistics, and hard facts. In contrast, qualitative user research seeks to explore more subjective questions, such as feelings and motivations. Your deep understanding of the difference between these two kinds of marketing research will help inform decisions that you make about investing in the information your company needs to thrive.

Quantitative and qualitative user research examples

To better understand the difference between these two disciplines, consider some simple examples of quantitative and qualitative marketing research:

Quantitative Marketing Research

You can gather broad insights about customer behavior using quantitative marketing research. For example, let’s say that your website currently sells high-quality, coffee-making supplies. Some examples might include coffee makers, filters, and so on. You have a good base of loyal patrons, so you think about adding high-end coffee beans to your online shop in order to increase revenue.

How can you decide if your customers will want to buy coffee from you? Often, marketers use surveys to gather quantitative data. Your survey could ask your current customers how often they buy coffee online. Very often, you will give users a choice of a few ranges to make the information easier to collate or graph.

So you might begin by asking them if they buy coffee online:

  • Never
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • A couple of times a year

You may find that 50-percent of your current customers already buy coffee online at least once a month. That could encourage you to consider offering coffee subscriptions to satisfy your customers and of course, generate more revenue.

Qualitative Marketing Research

The research above helped you discover that your customer base is already open to the idea of buying coffee online. That’s good news, but you still don’t know for certain that you can motivate them to start buying their coffee from you. For that, you can turn to qualitative user research.

These are some qualitative marketing research tools you could employ:

  • You can still use surveys but ask more open-ended questions. Instead of asking multiple-choice questions, you might ask your customers where they buy coffee now, why they like that retailer, and what might encourage them to switch.
  • Other qualitative marketing research techniques include focus groups and interviews. Surveys are easier, but the brainstorming aspect of focus groups and interviews can help you uncover surprising insights that you may miss if you simply didn’t know to put the right questions on your survey.

Should you rely upon quantitative or qualitative marketing research?

Do you need quantitative or qualitative data to better understand your marketplace? Experienced marketers will generally suggest gathering both kinds of information in order to gain deep insights about any aspect of a business:

  • Quantitative information can give you a big-picture overview of customer behavior. You may also find it easy to gather numbers with surveys or even your own website’s analytics. Generally, you can rapidly plot or analyze these numbers to make them easy to understand.  It’s easy to say how much time average visitors spend on your website, how many prospects abandon shopping carts, or how often customers buy coffee. At the same time, quantitative data is better at describing behavior than motivation.
  • Since you won’t gather such neat, ordered answers as you would with multiple-choice, quantitative questions, it may take more time to organize qualitative answers into meaningful trends. Still, the more flexible and subjective nature of qualitative research can uncover surprising insights into consumer preferences and motivations. Your research group may answer questions you didn’t even think to ask. Also, you can find tools to help you analyze unstructured data. For instance, some software can pick out common and related words or phrases and arrange them into comprehensible diagrams.

Finding good quantitative and qualitative research companies

Of course, you might not believe you have the time or background to properly design and conduct market research all by yourself. You can work with quantitative or qualitative research companies. A good research firm should have the experience and training to provide the answers to your marketing questions. Right at the beginning, they should learn enough about your business concerns to help you decide if you should focus upon quantitative research, qualitative research, or a combination of both.

According to CFR, a market research company, you need to take care when asking for advice from some companies before engaging them to do your research. In the real world, many researchers have more experience with one discipline over the other. Naturally, that experience can give them an unconscious bias. On the other hand, you can certainly find a quantitative and qualitative marketing research agency with experience in both types of research and just as importance, the skill to blend them for the best results.

Why market research matters

You know that a stronger understanding of consumers will give you the chance to serve them better. In turn, that good relationship will help you retain loyal customers and attract new ones. The insights you gain can help inform your website design, the products you offer, and the kind of advertisements you run.  Before you plan your research, you need to decide if you should rely upon quantitative, qualitative, or a mix of the two. If you seek help from a marketing research company, make certain that they have experience to handle them both.

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