Qualitative research, although for decades firmly rooted in the practice of marketing research, still raises many eyebrows. For clients, it’s much easier to decide on quantitative research with a large research sample than to splurge on qualitative interviews.
Many companies fear qualitative research
When offered qualitative research, clients usually have a lot of questions and doubts. Below we discuss the most common ones and explain why it’s worth considering qualitative research.
Why is qualitative research so expensive?
Qualitative research, as well as quantitative research, tends to be costly. Often, clients compare those two types of studies based on their cost per respondent, and wrongly so. The cost of a quantitative interview will always be much lower than the cost of a qualitative interview, because the latter includes, among other things:
- The cost of recruiting participants, representatives of an often very specific target group, who are repeatedly verified in terms of various stringent criteria.
- Remuneration for the respondents for participating in the study (in case of specialists it can amount to a big part of the project’s budget).
- Cost of moderation, which is much higher than the cost of a survey, because it requires the involvement of a qualified, experienced moderator (market researcher).
- Cost of transcription of interviews or focus group interviews.
- Cost of commuting to the respondent.
Most of these costs are absent (or are much lower per respondent) in the case of quantitative research. In addition to that, in a qualitative study, there is little possibility of automation of data analysis, so in the case of a large numbers of interviews, the analysis takes a long time.
Will this sample be representative of my target audience?
Sampling in a qualitative study is most often a process of purposeful selection. Therefore, we cannot speak of representativeness, because that is not the purpose of qualitative research. We cannot form conclusions about the entire population, in a statistical sense. A quantitative sample, when designed and required correctly, does however give researchers a good picture of the specific target audience. We can draw conclusions from that and provide our client with recommendations – but not statistical inference. In a qualitative study, the goal is to deepen our knowledge of particular groups. Quick quantitative studies don’t make room for that.
Can we do more qualitative interviews? Will the results be of better quality then?
When a sample is properly constructed and recruited – so that the individual sub-groups are relatively homogeneous and number at least 5-6 (preferably 10) persons – adding more interviews doesn’t make much sense. When we talk to more people of a similar profile, the same information tends to come up. And keep in mind that the cost of each interview is relatively high, so increasing the sample is very expensive. Conducting, for example, 50 qualitative interviews make sense only when the sample size is very diverse internally and we already have a hypothesis about how we can divide it into smaller subgroups. Often, a better idea is to define the target group more precisely, rather than to increase the number of interviews.
How can we make sure that the people recruited for the study will be the right people to provide us with information?
The basis of good recruiting is a precise definition of the criteria. It is a task shared by the research agency and the client. Next, respondents are recruited in accordance with the criteria and are subject to verification in several steps: telephone recruitment, verification before the meeting, checking all the facts that can be checked on the basis of an identity document, or other ways, depending on the target. For example, owning a particular brand of car is verified using a registration document. Doctors are verified using information from the Chamber of Physicians and Dentists. A person in a study of cosmetics is asked to provide us with photos of the products in their bathroom, and farmers are asked about the details of their agricultural machinery.
Why every company should consider qualitative research?
Some clients are very fond of qualitative research and use it on a regular basis. They appreciate the benefits of this type of research.
These are the advantages that should be taken into account by those hesitant to use qualitative research:
- Qualitative studies provide a unique opportunity to come face to face with respondents (customers or representatives of target groups) and verify our ideas about them. It is a direct form of contact – authentic and sometimes surprising. In a qualitative study, we analyse the results of this special meeting, while in quantitative research we analyse a set of data, which is the result of indirect interaction, by following a standard questionnaire designed by the researcher.
- In the case of research carried out in a focus studio, the client has the opportunity to see their customers. This is often an interesting experience, especially if you have not used qualitative research before. For example, you see customers wearing the brand’s clothes, hear what they’re saying, and often what they recommend to the manufacturer.
- A qualitative study does not provide us with statistics, but rather with a lot of living, authentic, real-life material. It provides us with authentic characters, real language, a unique perspective on the world and the product category. It is a look that is often far from what marketing specialists had planned. Such material complements quantitative research extremely well, because it allows you to prepare better research tools, more accurately interpret the data, and get better insight into the research problem. But it is also a value in itself. It allows you to empathise with the customer and his or her needs, and understand their sometimes irrational behaviour. And that enables you to make better decisions for your brands and products.