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Market Research Blog

Updates from CFR

Qualitative Research Design: Methods & Appropriate Uses

Posted by Colson Steber on 01/25/2017

qualitative research designTo say that the only difference between quantitative research and qualitative research is that the former concerns itself with numerical data while the latter concerns itself with non-numerical data, is – to paraphrase Mark Twain – like failing to see the difference between lightning and the lightening bug.

In a subsequent blog post we will focus on quantitative research design, and highlight why and when it is valuable and necessary. For now, we will focus on qualitative research design, and look at both methods and appropriate uses.

What is Qualitative Research Design?

The goal of qualitative research design is to generate vital insights into consumer (either B2B or B2C as appropriate) attitudes, perceptions, opinions, behavior patterns, motivations, and so on.

In essence, qualitative research design aims to deeply understand how and why consumers make decisions, and ultimately leverage this information to achieve important business goals. In this way qualitative research design embraces “the voice of the customer,” and it goes far deeper – since, quite often, what consumers SAY is not actually what they DO (not because people are hypocritical or lack self-awareness, but simply because human nature is human nature!).  

This is also why using online platform surveys (e.g. SurveyMonkey), or relying on social media comments, to grasp what consumers are thinking and feeling is not just bad market research -- it is not real market research at all. Most consumers do not spontaneously share their opinions through these forums, which means that the sample is far from representative. Furthermore, the information is typically superficial, and businesses that make decisions based on likes/dislikes/upvotes/downvotes invariably end up wishing they hadn’t. They might as well consult a magic 8-ball.    

Qualitative Research Design Methods

There are several methods to carry out qualitative research design, including focus group discussions, face-to-face or telephone in-depth interviews (sometimes called depth interviews or IDI), and online community forums.

Qualitative Research Design Applications

Just as there are many qualitative research methods, there are multiple applications as well – which explains why the information generated by this approach is so valuable and versatile. Some common applications include, but are not limited to:

  • Improving existing products
  • Developing new products
  • Targeting new customer groups (demographically, geographically, etc.).
  • Creative research (identifying which messages resonate effectively with target audiences, etc).
  • Competitive scan and diagnostic research (how a business compares to others in its marketplace, measuring brand awareness, etc.).

Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how qualitative research design can be used to fully exploit a legitimate research opportunity, and ultimately provide businesses with clear insight and direction on how to make successful, profitable decisions.

Learn More

To learn more about qualitative research design, and how your business can leverage this approach to reap a range of rewards and measurable ROI, contact the Communications For Research team today. If you currently have a research plan, we would be happy to review it and provide you with ideas and insights to put you on track for sustained success.

For more information on how to communicate the value of market research to your clients, download our FREE eBook:

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Topics: qualitative research

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