At the Intersection of Qualitative and Quantitative Research
In recent years, I’ve noticed considerably more blended approaches to research than when I first started in this industry. Back then, it was very clear which clients preferred qualitative and which clients viewed quantitative research as superior. It seemed to be that you were either in the qualitative camp or the quantitative camp where “ne’er the twain shall meet.” However, there seems to be an increasing interest in using both methods.
Each is strong enough to stand on its own, and there continues to be studies that are appropriate for just qualitative (e.g., studies that are exploratory in nature, like concept development) or purely quantitative (e.g., requires a nationally representative sample). But blending the two offers a comprehensive approach that can allow for greater color around key findings. Our body of work in the market research area reflects this.
Example #1 – Quant-to-Qual Study
For example, we have conducted several studies for a client where the quantitative has preceded the qualitative. We invited survey respondents to participate in an in-depth interview to get a deeper understanding of their decision-making process when it came to purchasing our client’s product or a competitor’s.
This quant-qual sequence allowed us to establish a general understanding of consumers’ mindsets and then dig deeper with a particular consumer segment or with consumers whose mindset was different. We were also able to save time and money by drawing our pool of interviewees from the survey respondents instead of implementing a screening and recruiting process from scratch.
Example #2 – Qual-to-Quant Study
For another client, we initially conducted a set of focus groups to identify a very specific consumer segment’s perceptions of the client’s product.
Coming out of the groups, we used the consumers’ language to craft a questionnaire, then we fielded that survey online, targeting this consumer base on a national level. By conducting the qual-quant sequence, we were able to dive in to the results of the exploratory process, expanding to a national level and testing the results in a scientific way so our client could fine-tune its marketing strategy for this particular audience.
In both scenarios, the clients were able to hear directly from the consumer in a detailed and meaningful way, more so than via open-ended responses in an online survey.
And, because of the large-scale quantitative phase, the clients had a greater degree of confidence in the results than if they had done just a series of in-depth interviews or focus groups.
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