When to use qualitative versus quantitative market research?

qualitative and quantitative market research

Research is a powerful tool if collected effectively and used properly. Deciding how to collect data and which type of data to use is key to using Market Research properly.

As a guide, your company should use primary quantitative research whenever possible and qualitative research for abstract concepts. The first step in making a decision is understanding the difference and the value between the two.

  • Qualitative Market Research: Qualitative market research is collected by interviewing current and potential customers.
  • Quantitative Market Research: Quantitative market research is the collection survey and transaction data to define behavior patterns.

So, a grocery store owner talking with customers about snack foods is qualitative market research. While a survey that asks customers if they prefer potato or corn chips is qualitative market research. So, the store owner will learn a lot about snack foods from the conversation and get forecast data from the survey.

quantitative vs. qualitative market research

The Basics of Market Research

Start with a Research Plan

The first step in marketing research is to develop a plan. So, identify the data, your audience and goals before you get started.

Use Neutral Third Parties

Internal staff is invested in the outcome and will steer respondents into a pre-set conclusion. Instead, hire a research company that is knowledgeable on your market and has no preconceptions.

Spend time constructing the study

Garbage in garbage out is common with market research. Hire someone who knows your market and how to execute the right Market Research plan for your business.

Always Test Your Surveys

A small test with a few respondents allows you to verify the quality of your survey. Skipping this can result in a wasted money and bad results.

The Market Research Process

4 steps of quantitative and qualitative research

The first step in the marketing research process is to identify your research goal. Not understanding the goals can lead to excessive cost and bad data.

A great way to determine what type of research method you should use is to understand the Market Research Process. This helps form a market research strategy. The typical research process is defined in the illustration to the left.

Secondary Industry Research

Secondary research provides market context, identifies trends and locates successful research studies for guidance.

Industry Researchers search the internet to understand of the industry and competitors. This is the most common form of qualitative data collection. And while it provides valuable insights, and shows some market trends, it carries sample bias and data shadows.

Secondary research is most effective when used to understand market trends for further research guidance. Secondary research relies upon the quality of the primary research and lacks insight into customer intent. As a result, companies should be cautious when using secondary research for decision making.

Qualitative Market Research

Qualitative market researchers interview customers and potential customers in a controlled environment. This is most commonly done in live interviews, focus groups or web meetings. The purpose of qualitative research is to gain a broad understanding of customer needs and capture strategic research insights.

If a quantitative study is the research goal, this step is used to identify measurable customer needs. Qualitative research should be your only methodology if are collecting information on abstract or complex ideas.

Software companies commonly use a “Lean Startup” methodology of quantitative research. The graphic to the right provides an outline of the “Lean Startup Process”

Quantitative Market Research

Quantitative market research measures the importance of data collected from qualitative research. This is done with market surveys that ask customers to rate the importance of certain ideas. In general, quantitative research is useful for measuring purchase intent, customer satisfaction and customer preferences.

And advanced methods to collect quantitative data such as Conjoint Analysis and forced rankings allow for high quality predictive measures.

The two keys to quality market research are survey construction and avoiding sampling error. Your survey should be clear and market research participants should match your target audience as closely as possible.

Constant monitoring and adjustments during the data collection process are key to collecting quality data. And in some cases, incentives may be required to realign the respondent mix. Things like gift cards and extra cash incentives go a long way toward balancing your survey audience.

Sampling methodology also matters. So, senior citizens are best polled via landline and young people are best reached via SMS or social media.

Transactional Data Resources

Social media and search engines offer new techniques to the market. Services such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google Trends are great for tracking internet traffic and search terms. Social media is also a great source of data. Their tools monitor social mentions and can help identify behavior patterns.

There are also independent providers such as SEMrush who combine their own tools with Google to create content marketing solutions. And since they provide transactional data, the information is high quality and actionable.

Using Strategic Research Effectively

Strategic market research is a tool. And like all tools, must be used properly to be effective. The best way to view market research is as a navigation system. Use it to find your best route and adjust your path as traffic mandates.

The keys to using research properly are:

  • Build your Strategy: Form your objectives with quality research firm
  • Eliminate bias: Hire a qualified third party and remove your internal team from the research process.
  • Collect Primary Data: Syndicated studies are incomplete and lack precision. Commision your own study or participate in a syndicated study.
  • Use the Right Methodology: Collect qualitative data for abstract ideas and quantitative data for defined ideas
  • Test Your Surveys: Always test and adjust questions during the process
  • Watch your Sampling: Monitor your responses to make sure they match your target customers
  • Refresh Your Data Often: Circumstances change, so refresh your study to make sure the data stays fresh
  • Use Multiple Sources: Check your data quality against other quality studies and market information.

The 3NG Consulting Approach

3NG Consulting is a full-service consulting firm that specializes in the automotive industry fixed operations. Our marketing strategy consultants specialize in real-world data collection that can be used immediately in your business. 

The 3NG Consulting process begins with a go to market strategy template our marketing consultants use to define your automotive market research needs.


Quantitative Market Research Example

Our team uses our data library experience to provide you the high-quality data you need for effective decision making. And as former automaker employees we focus on actionable data instead of interesting insights. Still not sure, look at the sample results above.

So, call us today to get started.

Karl Krug

Karl Krug

Karl Krug is the Chief Strategy Officer of 3NG Consulting and specializes in automotive parts and service solutions and marketing. 

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