Quantitative vs. Qualitative Business Research

There are two major types of data you can collect in market research. Both can be valuable for different purposes.
Quantitative research is all about numbers. It uses mathematical analysis and data to shed light on important statistics about your business and market. This type of data, found via tactics such as multiple-choice questionnaires, can help you gauge interest in your company and its offerings. For example, quantitative research is useful for answering questions such as:
  • Is there a market for your products and services?
  • How much market awareness is there of your product or service?
  • How many people are interested in buying your product or service?
  • What type of people are your best customers?
  • What are their buying habits?
  • How are the needs of your target market changing?
  • How long are visitors staying on your website, and from which page are they exiting?
Most importantly, because quantitative research is mathematically based, it’s statistically valid. This means you can use its findings to make predictions about where your business is headed.
Qualitative research isn’t so much about numbers as it is about people – and their opinions about your business. Typically conducted by asking questions either one-on-one or to groups of people, qualitative research can help you define problems and learn about customers' opinions, values and beliefs. Because qualitative research generally involves smaller sample sizes than quantitative research, it’s not meant to be used to predict future performance; rather, it gives you an anecdotal look into your business.
Whereas quantitative research asks short-answer questions that begin with “to what extent,” “how much” and “how many,” qualitative research asks long-answer questions that begin with “how” and “why.” It’s particularly useful if you’re developing a new product, service, website or ad campaign and want to get some feedback before you commit a large budget to it. Some typical questions that “qual” research may ask include:
  • Why do you think this product is better than competitive products? Why do you think it’s not?
  • What would you do to improve this new service to make it more appealing to you?
  • What do you think of this new company logo?
  • How would you characterize this website design? How friendly and easily navigable is it?
  • What does this print ad say to you?

Game Plan

Your first step is to determine what your research needs are, and work with your management team to decide whether qualitative or quantitative research is more appropriate for your needs.
  • Here’s a helpful article that provides numerous links to valuable insights on how to effectively conduct both quantitative and qualitative market research.
  • You may already have a solid foundation for collecting quantitative research data: It’s your website, which likely has a web analytics function (or one that you can easily activate), such as Google Analytics. Check your web provider’s Tools section.
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