My dear colleague Carolin Stoffels makes a great case for qualitative research, but now it’s my turn. I want to share my passion for quantitative research.
Let’s start with a fictional quantitative market research study:
These three facts give you an enormous amount of information about consumer behaviour on the baby food category. Moms worry. Moms worry about specific things they read or hear from friends that may not be backed by evidence. Worry does not always drive moms to change their lifestyle. Perception is not always logical. You can do a huge amount of inductive reasoning based on only a few data points.
The well-executed quantitative research will allow a market researcher to assess their category situation from all possible vantage points. Over time and using the same thorough battery of questions, researchers and modellers can assess how the consumer market is shaping and changing over decades. That information is incredibly powerful- a complete universe of stated consumer perception.
What are some of the most impactful ways of putting it to use?
“If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.”. While I don’t completely agree with that maxim, however, I do think that if you can’t measure it, you certainly can’t be sure you are impacting it. That can be consumer perception, brand equity, social system construction, or category share. The whole purpose of marketing is to impact the market and so, in my opinion, there is nothing more important than quantitative data. Trying to be a successful marketer without this data would be like trying to drive to Mumbai without a map, compass, or understanding of where you are starting.
Qualitative research gives you feedback on actions taken. But, changing your packaging, launching a new campaign, tweaking texture or taste- all these decisions must be informed by quantitative data.
How can qualitative research get you into trouble?
Qualitative research is fun to execute. Who doesn’t like sitting behind a one-way mirror with an unlimited supply of peanut M&Ms in front of you judging people’s outfits? The fun aside, it is inspiring. Hearing real consumers talk about your product with such passion is an amazing feeling. However, all too often I’ve seen marketers get hooked on their inspiration and are unable to let go of an insight even after quantitative data has debunked its viability. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting six months after concept validation and failure and having the same conversation about how that focus group in October loved it so much.
And the verdict is:
Of course, you need both qualitative and quantitative research to see both the what and the why. Planning and balancing research strategically is key. I believe the best research cycles both begin and end with quantitative. Foundational research like segmentation, market landscape, and need gap should be the starting point. This is how teams stay grounded in facts and answer the bedrock questions like, “where to play?” Then, qualitative research should be used to explore what nuances exist and what resonates deepest. Those rich insights are the lifeblood of beloved brands. The cycle completes with validation. Is the richness scalable? If not, let go, no matter how compelling they are for a minority.
It all goes back to the classic “chicken and egg” problem. Any quantitative survey you prepare starts off with a qualitative understanding of the world around you. And any qualitative research finding benefits from being strengthened by quantitative validation.
So, here’s to 2017 – the year where both qualitative and quantitative research go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other. Both qualitative and quantitative research are complementing tools that support you in finding true and valuable insights.