Qualitative research. What is it?

Investigación cualitativa | Qualitative research | Pesquisa qualitativa
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Choosing a quantitative or qualitative research methodology is one of the first decisions to make when conducting market research. Today we tell you what qualitative research is and when you can use it to carry out your market research.

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research is a set of methodologies used to understand consumers’ motivations, behaviours, attitudes and perceptions about products and services. Compared to quantitative methodologies, qualitative research seeks to gain a deeper and more detailed understanding of the consumer. It employs techniques that encourage observation or spontaneous and open communication from interviewees, without predetermining their responses. This is its fundamental difference from quantitative research, which focuses on generating numerical data about their behaviour or views from a limited set of response options.

Qualitative research methodologies

To better understand what qualitative research is, it is best to look at the most common qualitative data collection techniques:

  • In-depth interviews: a researcher has a one-on-one conversation with an interviewee and using a moderation guideline explores their opinions, perceptions and experiences related to a product or service. Through a number of in-depth interviews, the researcher will get a good idea of the different points of view among the study group. In-depth interviews also exist in UX research and are called user interviews or UX interviews.
  • Focus groups: moderated meetings where the topic of interest is discussed in a group, encouraging interaction between the participants. In this way, focus groups allow a variety of perspectives to be gathered in a single session and to see how some people’s opinions influence others.
  • Ethnography: Ethnographic techniques involve observing consumers in their natural environment to understand their real-life behaviour. The ethnographic researcher «lives» with the consumer and observes them – always maintaining neutrality so as not to influence – and gathers information about their everyday behaviour.
  • Consumer Diaries and Blogs: This qualitative research technique asks consumers to record their experiences and thoughts about a product or service over a given period of time.
  • Projective Techniques: In this qualitative methodology, interviewers use visual stimuli, role-plays or stories to help consumers project their thoughts and feelings about a product or brand. This provides a deeper understanding of the interviewee’s views.
    While in some cases it is possible to ask for frequencies or to code certain views or behaviours, the focus of these methodologies is not on obtaining precise numerical data, which is always better collected by other quantitative research techniques.

Advantages of qualitative research

Qualitative research is sometimes the best option to choose because of the advantages it offers:

  • Ideal for exploratory research. It is the best option whenever we need to explore unknown or emerging areas of a market. In this way, through open communication with interviewees, we can identify trends, unmet needs and opportunities that we may not even suspect. With quantitative analysis we may miss this level of detail that could actually make the difference when entering a new market.
  • High data richness: By interviewing people openly for a relevant amount of time, we can gather much more detailed and in-depth information about their views.
  • Flexibility: Even if we have a moderation guideline, we will always be able to adapt it to the interviewee’s answers, especially if they reveal something unsuspected that may be of interest to the brand. This flexibility does not exist, for example, in an online survey.
  • In-depth understanding: with the exception of ethnographic techniques, the focus of qualitative research is to understand what the consumer is thinking, the why of their behaviour, which may remain hidden at times. Most qualitative research seeks to access that deeper level in the mind of the consumer.
  • Collecting verbatims and videos. There is nothing more powerful for making an insight resonate with an organisation than bringing the views expressed directly by consumers. A verbatim or video from consumers will have much more impact on the steering committee.

Beyond the absence of quantitative data, the biggest disadvantage of qualitative research lies in its cost and the time it requires. On the one hand, because we ask for a significant contribution from respondents, the unit incentive is higher than the one they receive for answering a survey of a few minutes. On the other hand, it requires the participation of moderators who spend days conducting interviews or focus groups. After moderating them, analysis time will also be required to understand and connect the data collected into a narrative that allows the organisation to identify the key drivers for action.

Complementarity of qualitative and quantitative research

So far we have been describing quantitative and quantitative research as two opposing methodological options. But the truth is that both are complementary:

  • First exploratory phase. Sometimes when we want to carry out a study of a market that we do not know, it is advisable to get a good understanding in a first phase by means of qualitative research. And once we have a better understanding of the market, we will be in a better position to create a questionnaire that accurately quantifies everything that is relevant to make informed decisions.
  • Deep dive. At other times quantitative data contradicts our hypotheses, revealing that there are some points that we may not understand as well as we thought. At that point we can do a «deep dive», a closer look to some specific points, by conducting quantitative research.

Use cases for qualitative research

Qualitative research adds value in a wide number of situations where a deep understanding of the consumer can make a difference:

  • Understanding the market: discovering the main drivers and barriers to purchasing a certain product or service, as well as the most common use cases.
  • Consumer segmentation: identify different groups of consumers based on a detailed description of their attitudes and behaviours.
  • New Product Development: providing inspiration during innovation processes to create new products and services with a higher chance of success.
  • Branding and Positioning: Understanding how consumers perceive a brand and what are the opportunities for effective positioning in the market.
  • Customer Experience Evaluation: Exploring consumer experiences at every point of contact with the brand or product to improve satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Advertising and Communication: Develop advertising messages that resonate with target audiences by deeply understanding their motivations and preferences.
  • Usability. Gain a good understanding of users’ expectations when using a website or app and their opinion on the different phases of their user journey.

As you can see, qualitative research can be applied in almost any situation when you want to gain a better understanding of consumers and users.

Qualitative research with We are testers

We are testers gives you the ability to combine qualitative and quantitative research using a single platform. Conduct in-depth interviews, UX interviews and online focus groups to better understand consumers and users. Combine your qualitative research with online surveys whenever you want to accurately quantify the insights and behaviours you’ve uncovered. And do it with top quality samples and the support of a team of experts who will be by your side at all times, who can moderate your sessions or even manage your studies from start to finish. With We are testers you decide how to do your research.

Contact our experts now to find out all the details about how you can carry out your qualitative or quantitative research with security and confidence.

Update date 12 June, 2024

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