How Qualitative Market Research Can Help You Improve Your Business

How Qualitative Market Research Can Help You Improve Your Business
March 25, 2014 Alex Chester

Qualitative market research provides unique insights into how consumers make their decisions. While quantitative research can tell a business how many people in a particular demographic are buying say, a cleaning product, it overlooks the information on what is driving those people to make the purchase in the first place. This can leave a business with a huge gap between knowing where customers are and knowing how to reach those customers.

Qualitative market research uses small groups and one-on-one discussions to gather personal data from consumers. This data is not normally statistically analyzed in the same way that quantitative research is. Rather, it focuses on why the consumer is making a decision or forming a certain opinion about a product.

Quantitative research is very helpful in showing a business which groups are most likely to purchase their products. Once that information is obtained, qualitative research does the in-depth work of showing a business HOW to market to those groups. This is vital to any marketing campaign and can save a business hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost promotion and marketing funds. With so much on the line, it is important to understand how the research is conducted. It is also vital to find the best market research agency to conduct the interviews and focus groups.

There are several methods for qualitative market research and they help research agencies gather information in different ways. The underlying principle for each is a friendly yet professional relationship with the moderator. This allows the participants to provide the business with honest feedback.

The most common interview strategies are based around these four dynamics:

  1. Face-to-face interviews – typically done one-on-one, but can have up to three people at a time.

  2. Focus groups – a small group usually consists of four to five people, with larger groups normally having around eight people.

  3. Online interviews/groups – group size is about the same as for focus groups but the interviews are done online rather than in person.

  4. Consumer workshops – workshops are typically held to help a company get new ideas for a product or to evaluate an idea already on the table. These can be especially helpful when deciding to launch a new product.

These interviews and groups are used to gather information about a customer’s motivation and develop customer profiles. They look at how consumer decisions are influenced by branding, packaging, and design. The information gathered can also help a business learn what type of message best reaches their desired consumer, and what messages are likely to turn a consumer away.

If a business wants to market to young adults, their message is going to have to be different than one that is marketing to stay-at-home parents. There is information on what effect price has on decision making, and how that is tied to other impressions about a product. For example, why will consumers pay more for one brand of a product than another?

Research can also help a company find out whether there is demand for a new product. Before spending a huge amount of money creating, launching and marketing a new product, a business can find out if there is even a market for that product. They can also find out if there is a way to create a market for the product if demand does not currently exist.

The goal in any interview or focus group is to obtain honest answers to the questions asked and honest opinions about the product or company. For this reason an outside party is usually the best option for conducting qualitative research. A good interviewer will make sure the discussions are free-form and that all participants feel at ease. They will also encourage the participants to be as detailed as possible in all of their discussions and answers.

It is helpful to make the sessions as fun as possible, while still maintaining a professional air. This helps the participants stay on track and really enjoy the process. When looking for a market research company, a business should look first to their performance record, and then to their interview style. Making sure that a company can gather the necessary information is paramount, however market research agencies tend to have a better success rate when their methods are creative and engaging.

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