Deeper customer connections through qualitative research.
What is qualitative research?
Qualitative research is any research using observation or unstructured questioning, which answers why and how, versus who, what, where and when.
It takes a deeper look at underlying reasons, motivations, thought trends and opinions behind consumer purchasing.
The results are dense, detailed insights of a person’s feelings and thinking. Data is unstructured, and can be notes, drawings or pictures. Qualitative research leverages small groups, based on criteria defined by the researcher. The small group representing a bigger group. This method does not claim universal, nor statistically correct results, or that results can be reproduced. Qualitative research methods generate subjective insights and an interpretation of the person who is conducting the research.
When to use qualitative methods.
Qualitative research's flexibility offers advantages over quantitative research. Probably the biggest advantage qualitative research has is its ability to see deeper into responses or observations and obtain deeper descriptions and explanations, experiences, behaviors, and beliefs—this is how we answer the why and how questions mentioned earlier.
Ask open ended questions.
If we want to describe a bank customer's assessment of their branch, we might ask them an opening question, like “What is your overall impression of this bank?” Suppose the customer answers “It was great” or “I didn't like it.”
We still don't know all that much about their experience. However, with qualitative research we have the ability to follow up with another question, “Why do you think so?” or “What in particular did you like? or not like?” Continuing with a theme of questions, we learn more details about the customers’ perceptions of the bank and understand more about particularly helpful or problematic services, products, service, style.
In qualitative research the interviewer creates a narrative with depth, informing the overall study. Compare this to a set of survey questions wherein response categories are fixed and interval and deeper understanding is not possible. Surveys yield useful information regarding prevalence and variation of certain variables within a population, but they don't lend themselves to deep, more personal experiences.
Another advantage to open ended questions is the gleaning of unintended information. Structured survey questions might not list the answer you're looking for as a response choice. And any response that falls outside a range is lost, or goes into the category, "other". Qualitative research illuminates cause effect relationships. A qualitative researcher may be equally fascinated with correlation, but look for, or plan to collect qualitative data to explain the association. We may know from certain metrics a particular program, or advertisement is effective but without qualitative data, we won’t know what aspect of the program was effective, or why.
An individual interview can be conducted over the phone, Skype, or in person. The idea is to ask your ideal user a series of questions and follow ups to learn what motivates them to buy a product like yours.
Focus Groups (online and offline)
Focus groups are generally conducted in person. These groups provide a safe and comfortable environment for users to talk about their thoughts and feelings surrounding your product. Online focus groups are similar to in person focus groups, except they are more cost efficient and reach more people.
An in-person observation of shopping behavior allows you to actually watch the consumer react to your product in the store.
Keep a better pulse on consumer thoughts and ideas in a particular space, and gain quick-turn insights. Two way communication, in a social media environment, panelists are comfortable in, allows researchers to be good listeners.