Data collection methods can broadly be of two types- qualitative and quantitative. Depending on the type of insights you are looking for, one or a combination both these methods might be required. While quantitative data is more measurable, qualitative research is more descriptive and can be open to interpretations.
Qualitative research is a primary method of data collection where responses are collected directly from participants through asking open-ended and exploratory questions. While businesses are often focused on quantifiable data, they might not get all the answers from quantitative research alone. A more comprehensive picture can be derived by focusing on the ‘why’. This is where qualitative research studies comes in. It helps provide richer understanding of underlying factors that drive consumer behaviour.
Understanding Qualitative Research
Qualitative research focuses on getting data through communications which are open-ended and exploratory rather than direct. Researchers focus on understanding consumer behaviour, opinions and motivations with reference to a particular topic.
There are a few key features which are specific to qualitative research which includes:
Open-ended questions: Discussions and questions are designed to be exploratory and encourage thoughtful and detailed responses from participants followed by further follow-up questions to get deep insights. The questions are often open ended to avoid constraints due to existing answer options.
Depth and Richness: Due to questions being more exploratory in nature, the information collected is not surface level and direct. The answers often come up while addressing complex issues with underlying thoughts and motivations.
Small-sample size: Qualitative research is often conducted in small-groups rather than a large sample size as seen in quantitative research methods. The focus is on depth of the discussion rather than on the breadth.
Unstructured Format: Qualitative research often relies on the researcher or a moderator to direct a flow of test. But while quantitive research is more standardised and to the point, qualitative research is more flexible. Questions revolve around particular topics. They are often adjusted in context to an ongoing discussion to facilitate free flow of thoughts. This allows for researchers to devlve further into the minds of respondents for deeper understanding.
Subjective Interpretation: As qualitative researches are often exploratory, there can be diverse thoughts, opinions and beliefs on a the same subject. Different patterns and insights have to be identified by a researcher. This is where interpretations might be subjected to a researcher’s perspective.
Read more about: Why Qualitative Research is Vital for Every Business Success.
Common Qualitative Research Tools
Unveiling consumers’ hidden needs and preferences is not possible without the help of certain qualitative research tools. These are specifically tailored for consumer research and to collect consumer centric data.
Surveys: Surveys are one of the simplest methods of collecting data from a given set of population. Qualitative surveys are typically exploratory in nature with open-ended questions that respondents answer. Asking the right kind of leading questions help researchers find meaningful data and understand patterns, trends, correlations, etc. for a given topic.
Interviews: This is one of the most popular qualitative research tools where a researcher has a conversation with participants to gather information about a topic of interest. Usually, it can involve multiple interviewers or participants but on-one-one interviews are usually the most common method.
This allows for detailed and diverse responses to be captured helping us gain insights to the participants’ opinions, beliefs and preferences. Depending on the kind of conversation and data you are looking to collect from a consumer, interviews can have further follow-up questions as well to delve further into the topic and gain deeper insights.
Focus Group Discussions (FGDs): Focus groups are discussions involving a small, selected group of partcipants. This discussion is facilitated by a moderator who guides the discussion. Participants are encouraged to share their candid thoughts and opinions on on a specific topic. These discussions goes beyond surface level responses and stimulates diverse meaningful discussions and exchange of ideas.
Researchers may choose to conduct an FGD to explore different aspects of a topic and how a small sample group representing a target population reacts to it. FGDs provide an opportunity to break down complex human experiences and turn them into relatable and actionable findings.
Usability Testing: Usability testing is a type of qualitative research to test websites or apps. It determines how user friendly and effective your products are and uncover issues or gather insights that can enhance the user experience.
User data can be collected through various means like facial expressions, mouse clicks, comments, etc. while taking the test. These data helps in refining any functionalities or design flaws of the product by identifying pain points and other challenges faced by a user. This helps in creating user-centred designs for a seamless user experience.
The intricacies of consumer behaviour require a more comprehensive form of data collection in addition to complementing quantitive research methods. This is why qualitative research tools need to be incorporated into your consumer research strategy. These kind of mixed-methods research tools can be used to verify qualitative data collected with statistical ones, thus helping understand consumers better. Additionally, online research tools allows a geographically diverse pool of participants to take qualitative tests and understand customer perspectives from different cultural contexts. These tools play a big role in targeted marketing and product development efforts. As customer need evolves, a continuous process of qualitative research will give brands the competitive edge to thrive and stay ahead of the curve.