Choose Wisely: Should I Use Quantitative or Qualitative Market Research? 

Primary market research is a set of techniques used to gather, analyze, and interpret information about a market to support informed decision-making. This could include details about potential customers, competitors, products, or the overall industry, and can be conducted via surveys, in-depth interviews, focus groups, ethnographic observations, and more. These various techniques can be broken up into quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Both quantitative and qualitative methods can be very powerful, but there are certainly cases where one provides more value, or is more appropriate, than the other.  

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research 

Quantitative market research uses surveys to capture data from a large number of respondents with goals of testing causal relationships between variables, making predictions, and generalizing the results to wider populations. This data is usually collected via close ended questions, making the output numeric in nature and ideal for advanced data analysis.  

While there is some overlap, the uses and interpretations of qualitative market research are much different than that of quantitative methodologies. Unlike quantitative research where the output is focused on numeric data, qualitative research is focused on words, sentiment, and behavior. Instead of close-ended questions where answer choices are provided, qualitative research utilizes an open-ended format. This results in descriptive data that can be analyzed by themes and allows for ambiguities and contradictions to be uncovered and probed further. This discussion-based format allows you to dig deeper and uncover the “whys” behind your respondents’ answers, giving you an unparalleled understanding of their perspectives.  

Let’s dig into each of these approaches by exploring three key components:  

  1. Goals 
  2. Applications 
  3. Formats 

Market Research Goals 

How you collect the data and what you’re hoping to do during analysis will greatly differ between quantitative and qualitative methods. Below you’ll find a breakdown of each: 

Quantitative Research 

  • You have a clear set of variables and metrics you want to test. 
  • You want to substantiate hypotheses with a statistically significant sample. 
  • You want numeric data about your customers. 

Qualitative Research 

  • You have a series of open-ended questions you want to explore. 
  • You want to get flexible, comprehensive responses from a smaller sample. 
  • You want to get to know the customers’ why. 

Market Research Applications 

While there are certainly uses for both quantitative and qualitative methods across most applications, there are areas where one provides stronger insights than the other.  

Quantitative Research 

  • Determining whether there is a market for a product. 
  • Quantifying product awareness or satisfaction levels. 
  • Defining target markets. 
  • Measuring consumer behaviors. 
  • Selecting optimal ideas from a fixed set. 

Qualitative Research 

  • Understanding the customer and their unmet needs.  
  • Capturing consumer perspectives in their own words. 
  • Assessing the reasons behind consumer beliefs and behaviors. 
  • Developing and testing campaign concepts. 
  • Product positioning. 

Market Research Formats 

Finally, the format for conducting your research will vary between quantitative and qualitative methods. 

Quantitative Research 

  • Surveys 

Qualitative Research 

  • In-Depth Interviews 
  • Focus Groups 
  • Ethnographic Studies 

Quantitative or Qualitative Research? 

When determining which market research method is best, ask yourself a few questions:  

  • Is the purpose of my research to test an existing hypothesis or to explore perceptions? 
  • Do I want to measure opinions or understand the why behind customer opinions? 
  • Do I need to use this data to extrapolate for a larger population or are directional trends sufficient for my needs? 
  • Am I choosing methods and designing studies based on best practices?  
  • Is my budget and/or time constraints influencing my research method? 
  • How will I use the data from this study? 

Answering these questions before beginning the research process will help ensure your selecting the best method for your needs based on clearly defined objectives.  

In the intricate dance between qualitative and quantitative research, the key lies in striking the right balance. Often, you’ll discover the best approach is a combination of the two. While quantitative research provides the ‘what’ and ‘how much,’ qualitative research uncovers the ‘why’ behind consumer actions and perceptions. The art lies in choosing the right method at the right time, ensuring that each piece of the puzzle contributes to the illumination of the path forward in an ever evolving and competitive market. 

Market research is an invaluable tool for uncovering growth opportunities, developing go-to-market strategy, validating your product roadmap, understanding customer satisfaction and experience, conducting a competitive assessment, exploring pricing strategy and so much more! Our team of market research experts provide both quantitative and qualitative, and we’d love to discuss your goals and explore the best methods to meet your needs. Contact us today