Mixed mode research is the process of conducting both quantitative research (e.g. surveys and field observation) and qualitative research (e.g. in-depth interviews and focus groups), and leveraging both types of data to generate deeper, and ultimately more reliable, actionable and profitable market research insights.
Note that both types of research — quantitative and qualitative — do not need to be conducted concurrently. For example, while researchers are conducting experimental observations in the field (quantitative data), they do not necessarily need to be conducting focus groups (qualitative data) at the same time. However, both data gathering approaches need to be part of the same overall research project, and therefore conducted around the same time.
While there are a multitude of practical use cases for mixed mode research — especially since the weighting of qualitative/quantitative data gathering can be customized to fit each business’s specific research needs — generally it makes sense to use this approach in the following scenarios:
- Little is known about a research problem, and it is necessary to conduct qualitative research to generate a clearer and more accurate inquiry framework, which can then be leveraged to develop and inform quality quantitative research.
- When it is necessary to validate results generated from other data gathering methods.
- When it is necessary to approach a research problem from multiple angles in order to identify different aspects (this is often referred to as “triangulation”)
- When it is necessary to augment the inherent weaknesses in both approaches (qualitative research can be difficult to generalize or completely filter out bias if the sample size is too small, while quantitative research reveals the ‘what’ but does not shed light on the ‘why’).
- When it is necessary to explain, reconcile or resolve seemingly unexpected or contradictory results (e.g. qualitative research can reveal that customers are motivated primarily by price, but their behavior suggests that they are more motivated by brand recognition/awareness).
- When it is necessary to generalize and scale findings from qualitative research.
- When it is necessary to develop more specific and accurate research instruments (e.g. conducting qualitative research first to gather information about a research problem, and then using that information to customize a research instrument with greater validity).
Clearly, mixed mode research is advantageous, and some of the world’s biggest businesses have relying on this approach for decades — and with tremendous success. And so, this begs the question: why doesn’t every business use mixed mode research all the time?
To start with, mixed mode research is not always necessary, and should therefore not be the default approach. What’s more, when it is objectively deemed as potentially beneficial, the research design process can be complex, time consuming and costly. There may also be key challenges integrating and augmenting both types of data, and there is no guarantee the discrepancies will resolve themselves.
At Communications For Research, we have proven expertise helping businesses leverage and exploit mixed mode research — provided that it makes strategic sense for them to do so, and is in alignment with their objectives and budget framework. To learn more, contact our team today and you’ll speak with our co-CEO Colson Steber. He can help you determine whether mixed mode market research is the right path to reach your business goals.
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