The difference between qualitative marketing research and quantitative is clear enough, it comes down to numbers. Do you want to know statistics on what people like, or do you want to find out what do they like and why? Quantitative marketing research will get you those statistics, but you need qualitative marketing research to define which information is worth quantifying, and to explain the MEANING of the numbers. Both methods have their role, if they are used wisely and appropriately.
Before we can delve into the differences between these two types of marketing research approaches, we need to have a broader understanding.
What is marketing research?
Marketing research is the objective collection of information relating to the marketing of products or services, and the analysis of that information to help companies understand the markets. Based on this knowledge, they can then develop successful strategies to expand their market shares or alter a product to best meet consumer needs. Within companies, the market researcher is the objective eyes and ears of the market. She/he is the one who alerts on any changes in the environment or related to the mindset of key audiences (e.g. consumers, physicians, nurses). Types of marketing research include, Positioning research, Messaging research, Brand name testing, Concept testing, and Ad testing. The insights gathered by these types of research help companies optimize the presentation of their products/services to key consumers as well as to differentiate them from the competition.
There are two methods to marketing research: qualitative and quantitative.
Quantitative research typically involves the construction of scales, surveys, and questionnaires, and they can be preformed over the phone, face-to-face, or over the internet. This data is easily reported through statistics. For example, a website might have a pop-up ask if you found what you were looking for on the site. A respondent will answer yes or no. The drawback is, that the quantitative research uses mostly pre-coded, closed ended questions, and is limited to a pre-designed structure for expected responses. The online questionnaire can only go as far as the programming will allow, and like any other data collecting quantitative tool, has a limited ability to probe answers.
Qualitative market research is designed to investigate and explore topics using open-ended questions. No matter which format is used, whether it is face-to-face interviews, interviews via the phone, or over the web, it is flexible, and interactive. Targeted audiences can be interviewed one-on one or in focus group settings, whichever format will enable the researcher to conduct the research most effectively. An expert moderator can select from a full range of approaches, such as traditional, projective, or observational research techniques, as needed to make sure that the mind of each respondent is captured. Qualitative marketing research can help explore a new market, understand customer perceptions, as well as generate or screen ideas. It answers that age-old question, why?