This is a guest post by Willie Pena:
Market research is an essential element of growing any business in today’s digital economy. Even if you do not operate your business online, your competition likely does. This means that if you are not honing your advertising, voice and other public-facing aspects of your business, you could lose the battle before it has even begun. Qualitative market research is one of the many tools that your business should be using to collect data and improve results.
Qualitative Research 101
Qualitative research is the process of obtaining in-depth information about customer or market thoughts, experiences, expectations and other items. As opposed to quantitative research, where the goal is often to harvest statistics and other trends, qualitative research is about obtaining long-form answers and information for additional analysis.
Common qualitative research methods include:
- Discussion groups
- Observation studies
- Direct interviews
- Targeted questionnaires
- Moderated Forums
The main point to qualitative research is to obtain the full picture on the decisions and opinions of a target group. Instead of stopping at merely what they think, qualitative research attempts to delve into the how, why and when of behaviors, thoughts and actions as well. This can help to align your business with market thoughts, vocabulary and other important factors. By getting to the root of market trends and behaviors, your business can make changes that have long-term impact and benefits.
Choosing the Best Qualitative Research Method
With the ever-increasing adoption of mobile technologies and the connected lifestyle that many lead, the options for conducting qualitative studies are increasing. However, certain methods will often suit specific needs or situations better than others will. When choosing the proper method, there are a few things to consider:
Time: Traditional observation studies or focus groups often require a substantial time investment. Though the actual interaction might only take a few days, the research and reporting process can take months. In cases where time is limited or quick results are required, shifting to online qualitative studies might be a better fit. This allows you to create stages or phases to your study easily and without inconveniencing participants.
Cost: In most cases, qualitative research is more expensive than quantitative research. This is because professional analysis, hosting venues, moderators and virtually every aspect of the process will have an associated cost. If you are looking to reduce costs, consider online video conferences or other virtual environments. Further savings are possible by pairing with a local university to source professional analysis and services.
Goals: Different methods will provide differing results. Qualitative research is often about body language, emotion and other parts of the response. Deciding the specific elements that you wish to track and creating questions and goals in advance will help to eliminate possible options and ensure that your market research yields useful results.
Common Qualitative Research Mistakes
Due to the in-depth nature of qualitative research, it is easy to make mistakes in the process. When this happens, you could be unintentionally rendering your time and data meaningless. These are a few of the common pitfalls made when conducting qualitative research.
Self-Moderation: One of the most important benefits to qualitative research is obtaining honest information on why customers or markets behave in a particular way. Obtaining a neutral, professional moderator for your study is crucial to avoiding potential bias. When you insert your business or employees into the research process, participants are more likely to provide answers they think you want to hear instead of honest responses.
Failing to Obtain a Proper Sample Group: Just as it is important to avoid introducing bias through your moderation and questions, you should avoid bias within your sample group as well. While it might be tempting to ask friends, family or business peers to participate in your group, this often will result in skewed data and results. Always choose your participants in relation to the goals of your research and screen participants for possible bias before starting.
Collecting Quantitative Data with Qualitative Methods: Quantitative research focuses on statistics and trends. Qualitative research goes deeper to reveal insights. While there might be a need for quantitative data collection in your qualitative research, be sure to follow through and analyze the results fully for real benefits.
Qualitative research is a powerful method of marketing research. By determining the thoughts and opinions that drive your market, you can position your business for success. From common pitfalls to research ideas, understanding qualitative research specifics will help to ensure accuracy and viability in your data collection.