Quantitative Research vs. Qualitative Research: Everything You Need to Know

Get a comprehensive understanding of quantitative and qualitative research, their differences, benefits, and when to use each one with this guide.

Reshu Rathi
February 22, 2023
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Wondering which is the right research method for your company? Should you use quantitative research, invest in qualitative research, or take a mixed approach?

While quantitative research generates statistically relevant data and is relatively easy to scale, qualitative research is a powerful way to understand consumers’ in-depth motivators and feelings.

Both methods are effective to help you accomplish your research objectives, but also have their own pros and cons. Ideally, the best research strategies incorporate both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

In fact, many UX researchers and product managers these days combine these research methods to get a more holistic understanding of the users. So, which one should you pick, and can they work together?

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research produces numeric data in measurable form. It involves collecting large amounts of data to identify patterns, make predictions, and generalize results through surveys, questionnaires, and polling methods. Quantitative research gives you hard data that is not based on opinion and serves as an objective input to decision-making.

Quantitative Research Methods

Here are some of the most common quantitative research methods.

#1 Surveys

Surveys are one of the most popular forms of quantitative research methods because they are a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to get data from a large population.
Crafting an effective survey takes a lot of work. Here are some best practices to keep your survey on track:

  1. Determine your goal – Having a clear goal in mind will help you ask the right questions and prioritize them accordingly.
  2. Keep it brief – If a survey is too long, people will lose interest and drop off or randomly check boxes, which could endanger the quality of the data you collect. When creating a survey, ask yourself the most important questions and eliminate the rest.
  3. Pilot test your questions – No matter whether you are conducting a survey or live interview, you need to test your questions in advance to understand if they are clear or not.

Remember, if you want surveys to work for you, you must put the work in first.

#2 Interviews

An interview is a simple method of conducting quantitative research. You can conduct these interviews face-to-face or interact with participants via telephone or online methods like video conferencing.

These interviews usually are very structured, with interviewers asking respondents a standard set of close-ended questions that do not allow for responses with detailed context. They are pretty similar to filling out a close-ended survey, except that this exchange is verbal.

#3 Observation

One way to gather quantitative data is through an extremely simple method – observation. – In this method, researchers usually observe users attending a specific event or using a product or service in a designated locale.

Data collected using this method is much more structured as researchers focus on observing and quantifying specific narrowly defined behaviors. Just like any other quantitative data-collection method, you can retrieve numerical data through this method that answers the “what” instead of the “why” part.

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research takes the what and finds out the why behind it. You can use qualitative research like interviews and behavioral observation to uncover underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations that drive customer actions. Qualitative data gives you much richer and directly actionable insights into consumer behavior by letting you dive deeper into customer pain points. In brief, qualitative research helps you explore more in-depth ideas and tells you stories.

Qualitative research lets you know your customers more deeply through their experiences, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors.

Related Read:Why Qualitative Research Is Vital for Every Business Success?

Qualitative Research Methods

There are four common methods to conduct qualitative research: Focus group interviews, one-on-one interviews, usability testing, and ethnographic research. To help you get started, we will cover each of them in detail.

#1 Focus Group Interviews

When we think of qualitative research, we often think of focus group interviews. These are group interviews involving a small number of people who share some common traits. Using focus group discussions, you can invite your users to tell you about their experience with your product or company.

In qualitative research, focus group interviews are one of the most common data collection methods. Let us look at an example of when you should use a focus group as part of your research plan.

Let’s say you are looking to add new features to your software product and want to know whether your users would find these features useful. By observing people in the focus group while they discuss their ideas with each other, you can gauge how they might respond to your new product features.

#2 Usability Testing

Usability testing is done to understand how your audiences might use your website, app, or prototype. Usually, these are one-on-one sessions, and you can start seeing patterns with just a handful of participants.

Usability testing can be a great research method to observe goal completion. For instance, you can test how users typically add products to their cart to identify friction points and tweak it to make it more seamless.

Interesting fact: Did you know that Amazon invested 100 times more in usability testing than it did in marketing? According to Jeff Bezos, this strategy led to Amazon’s success.

You can do usability testing with or without a moderator. If you need testing done faster or at a larger scale, then you can go with unmoderated usability testing. But if you want to dig a little deeper, you can use a moderator. This way, you can converse with the users, ask follow-up questions, and probe into any insights that seem exciting or unexpected.

#3 User Interviews

User interviews are excellent for scenarios where you need deeper insights into what the user thinks about your website, app, or even a specific user journey. This can help you understand your users’ likes and dislikes and motivations and even help uncover flaws in your product design.

To make it a little easier for you to conduct these interviews, here are a few dos and don’ts to follow when you conduct user interviews.

#4 Ethnographic Research

The main goal of user research is to know your customers better, and one of the best ways to do that is to observe them. Ethnographic research is a way to immerse yourself in your user’s natural environment. You can see firsthand how users interact with your product in their daily lives. It helps researchers not only empathize with customers but also solve real problems.

There are two methods of ethnographic research. The first is passive observation, where you shadow a customer while they do their everyday tasks. The second is contextual interviews, where you observe and interact with users.

Ethnographic research will give you deeper user insights that you may not have seen if they were in a lab being asked to complete a task, which is why it is quite a valuable research tool.

Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Before we get into how you integrate quantitative and qualitative research, it is crucial to understand the differences between these two research methods:

Why vs What

Qualitative research uncovers the why, and quantitative covers the what. While both these methods are helpful in understanding your customer’s pain points, they are designed to give you different perspectives.

Types of Insights

Quantitative research methods such as surveys can provide a broader, fuller view by generating numerical data – like how many people like or dislike your product. In comparison, qualitative research gives rich, detailed insights based on the personal views of those you interview and allows you to build a real, empathetic understanding of users as human beings.

Here are a few other differences at a glance:

The Benefits of Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Gain a Holistic Understanding of Your Users

Combining traditional quantitative research techniques with qualitative research methodology will give you a holistic view of your users. You do not need to run a multi-stage process to gain value from combining these market research methods. You can simply use these methods together to gain deeper insights into any particular problem.

For example, recent research found that 76.3% of mobile shoppers abandon their carts, costing businesses millions in lost revenue. Rather than merely quantifying the challenge, businesses could add a qualitative dimension to discover the precise reasons – why mobile shoppers do not buy, giving a much richer and actionable insight into mobile shopper behavior.

Build a Deeper Connection with Your Audience

In this highly competitive environment, brands must build deeper connections with their customers to retain their loyalty. To do that, it is important to create a deeper understanding of users based on empathy. Combining the why and the what (quantitative and qualitative research) enables you to build a more human, emotional connection with your users. These insights can help you take direct action to address your user needs.

If you want to understand your customers better, be sure to leverage both quantitative and qualitative research.

Here’s how Jayesh Menon, Director of Consumer Insights at Entropik, puts it:

Quantitative Research vs. Qualitative Research: When to Use Them and Why?

Both these methods can help you gain insights into your users – but when is it more appropriate to use each of them?

Measure Quantifiable Things

When you want to quantify a problem, you should use quantitative research. For example, with a survey, you can ask thousands of people the same question to understand the issue at scale and paint a picture of what your customers do or want.

Collect Objective Data

With quantitative data, you can generalize results across a large population and quantify a problem by generating numerical data. Also, you can use quantitative research to test a hypothesis you might have about your audience’s experiences.

Gather Deep User Insights

Qualitative research takes the what and finds out the why behind it. So, when you want to uncover underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations that are driving customer actions, you should use qualitative research. Qualitative data will give you context into the ‘whys’ of consumer behavior and help you understand their actions deeply through their thoughts, beliefs, and experiences.

Here are a few pros and cons of both quantitative and qualitative research:

Wrapping Up

Using quantitative and qualitative research methods in tandem can help you better understand your users’ pain points to make effective business decisions. However, most organizations use these methodologies in siloes, which need to change to achieve maximum impact.

Though these methodologies deliver different insights about your users, combining them can help you uncover what your users do, how they feel, and why to help you- deliver excellent customer experiences.


Supercharge your research with actionable insights faster on Decode's integrated consumer research platform with Insights AI.
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Build the Right Products, the Right Way: Elevate your UX with Qatalyst's integrated user research platform with Insights AI.


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Author Bio

Reshu Rathi
Reshu Rathi is an online marketing and conversion rate enthusiast. She specializes in content marketing, lead generation, and engagement strategy. Her byline can be found all over the web

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