Qualitative vs Quantitative Research Guide

Qualitative vs Quantitative market research: A Latimer Appleby Useful Guide

Qualitative and quantitative market research approaches are complementary; however, they do have quite distinct purposes, which we can summarise as follows:

  • Quantitative research is more about answering the ‘What?’, ‘Where?’, ‘When?’, ‘Which?’ and, to some extent, the ‘How?’ questions that brand and business owners face.
  • Qualitative research, by contrast, seeks to explore the ‘Whys?’ that typically are manifested in the various behaviours we can measure through quantitative market research approaches.

There are also differences, between the approaches, in question design, data collection and the analysis and interpretation phases that take place as part of any market research project:

NB The term qualitative research is frequently shortened to qual and quantitative research is frequently shortened to quant.

Question design

In terms of question design, qualitative studies rely on indirect, projective, open-ended questions, in contrast to the direct, structured questions we see in quantitative research.

Data collection

In terms of data collection, qualitative studies are conducted amongst a relatively small number of respondents, interviewed at length and in-depth.

Quantitative studies tend to involve interviewing a large number of people and, typically, from a pre-coded questionnaire.

Analysis and interpretation

When it comes to analysis and interpretation, qualitative analysis looks at the total pattern of responses in an evolutionary interview.

Quantitative studies typically analyse responses to questions across a larger number of people.

When to use Qualitative research?

The types of marketing problems that may require more of a qualitative focus include the following:

  • Creative development work, for example: strategy definition, executional guidelines
  • NPD research, for example: gap analysis, concept exploration, packaging development
  • Market exploration studies, for example: consumer perceptions, segmentation hypotheses/ generating hypotheses, understanding target market needs
  • Tactical studies, for example: packaging, general strategic exploration, pre-quantification, image analysis

When to use Quantitative research?

The types of marketing problems that may require a quantitative focus include anything that requires measurement, such as the following:

  • Advertising pre-testing
  • Communication effectiveness tracking
  • Retail / market sizing / auditing
  • Validating / checking qualitative hypotheses
  • Quantifying target market/audience
  • Best by Test, product evaluations
  • Customer satisfaction

If you are in doubt as to which approach to use, it is always best to start with the brief or ‘what you are looking to achieve from the research’ first rather than be concerned about how you will obtain the insights you seek. At Latimer Appleby, we use a method-neutral approach which means we work with our clients to find the most appropriate way to research each problem and select the qual and quant research techniques (or combination thereof) accordingly. Please feel free to contact us for further information.

Free qualitative vs quantitative research guide from Latimer Appleby, the market research consultants.

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