The Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Market Research

Published On May 4, 2021
In Market Research, Blog Archives

Sometimes the best way to find out how to improve your product is by simply asking your customers.  

However, the question can be framed in more than one way. 

Take this question, for example:  

Why do you use our product? 

Then, compare it with this:  

On a scale of one to ten, where would you rank our product in terms of usability? 

The two questions generate two different kinds of answers. The former is open-ended and more challenging to quickly communicate, while the latter is close-ended and much easier to answer.  

The difference is that the first question is qualitative while the second question is quantitative.  

Market research

Despite their appearances, qualitative and quantitative research are not different. They probe at the same thing, only by different methods. Indeed, businesses create the most value when they leverage the two in tandem.  

Let’s take a look.  

What is qualitative research? 

Qualitative research is the practice of collecting and analyzing information that explains the motivations — the needs and wants — of customers.  

As the name suggests, this information is non-numerical. It lacks structure and therefore does not yield any statistical trends or insights. This is because opinions and views are broad and therefore extremely hard to pigeonhole into data points. 

However, that’s not the objective of doing qualitative research anyway. Market researchers actively look for qualitative answers because what they convey is far deeper and more nuanced than numbers ever could.  

They tell a story. They provide a rich means to not measure but understand the attitude and emotional logic of customers.  

In other words, qualitative research explains the how and why of customers. 

Of course, it is not just limited to customers. ESG or competitive intelligence solutions make use of qualitative research to learn more about investors, competitors,  , and anyone else who impacts their business.  

Sources for qualitative research  

Qualitative information is more analogue than digital. It’s vague and its collection is less efficient. This is because it must be articulated. Therefore, it can be attained via:  

  • One-on-one interviews 
  • Customer stories or case studies 
  • Focus groups or sessions 
  • Open-ended surveys 
  • Observational research: monitoring habits and routines 

What is quantitative research? 

On the other hand, quantitative research is the practice of collecting and analyzing information, systematically. Its results, therefore, are objective and measurable.  

As one might have guessed, quantitative research is based on data that is numerical and structured. The analysis that follows, therefore, does yield statistical trends or insights, which are communicated through reports in the form of charts and graphs.  

Therefore, compared to its peer, the results of quantitative research are much easier to understand and communicate. Although, unlike its peer, its results are more general and lack depth.  

Market research

Still, given its high statistical confidence, when predicting the outcome of an event or theory, quantitative research is the go-to. 

It’s not vague: it’s quantifiable. It can be done with great ease and speed and in even greater throughput. And it, therefore, is highly cost-effective, flexible and rich in high-quality statistical information.  

It’s the hallmark of data-driven decision-making. 

Sources for quantitative research 

  • Quantitative information is the product of measurement. It can be attained via: 
  • MCQ customer satisfaction surveys 
  • Market segmentation data 
  • Advertising data 
  • Data measured on marketing channels 
  • A/B testing and other experiments  
Qualitative research vs. quantitative research

Using qualitative research vs. quantitative research 

Market research is the sum of the two. But businesses find it challenging to determine which to use when.  

At SG Analytics, whether it’s ESG advisory or competitive research, our diverse team of first-rate analysts have the know-how and experience to identify and implement market research services that are in line with the highest industry standards.  

When to use qualitative research first 

We have learned that qualitative research must precede quantitative research when planning to enter a completely new market about which you have absolutely no information.  

Before jumping into product development, qualitative research can be relied upon to understand the new market and its dynamics to a certain extent.  

Characteristic of qualitative information, it would be more personal, honest and therefore reliable to identify what the market needs or what are its customers’ motivations.  

When to use quantitative research first 

On the other hand, quantitative research must precede qualitative research when planning to enter a familiar market.  

When businesses form a vague idea or theory about what could bring success, they can conduct quantitative research to validate it.  

In fact, the logic applies to any theory about any market component.  

Consumer insights
“Characteristic of qualitative information, it would be more personal, honest and therefore reliable.”

Whether it’s the expectations of stakeholders or finding the right price point, businesses can, first, propose an idea that explains the phenomenon, and then collect hard data to look for the evidence that proves it.  

The combination of qualitative and quantitative research 

When we look at the two cases in succession, we begin to grasp why the two are most effective when combined.  

A hypothesis is shaped by qualitative research, while the evidence for it is found by quantitative research. Conversely, data is seemingly limitless and can be found almost everywhere. But what data is meaningful and worth looking for? 

Together, qualitative research and quantitative research form a tremendously powerful truth-seeking machine. One finds the path, the other guides the way. 

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SGA Digital Marketing Team
SGA Digital Marketing Team
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The SG Analytics Digital Marketing team creates and optimizes content for service and industry-specific blogs. We are a dynamic team focused on building our company's brand online, as well as sharing the expertise of our subject matter experts through the medium of our thought leadership blogs.

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