When it’s time to pursue your next research project, you don’t have to choose between a purely quantitative or qualitative approach. You may be able to reap the benefits of both.
To refresh your memories, quantitative research entails a statistically valid size of the target audience and gleans objective, structured, numeric data that provides insights into the “what.” Conversely, qualitative research is subjective in nature and reveals the “why” by capturing insights about feelings, attitudes, opinions, behavior drivers, and so forth.
A good research firm can often combine techniques from both types of research into one study. For example, a customer satisfaction phone survey can ask for scores in various areas of performance. This close-ended approach enables structured responses for a quantitative analysis. But, the survey can also include open-ended questions to reveal the reasons behind specific scores, thoughts on current and future best practices, needs unique to each customer, and more. A good research firm will analyze and report on qualitative data separately, as it often drives different follow-up actions than quantitative data.
Similarly, with qualitative research such as focus groups for concept or product testing, some structured questions can save the moderator time and help quickly gather consensus from participants.
However, even if you utilize some quantitative techniques in those focus groups or other qualitative studies, don’t make the common mistake of treating the study results as quantitative. In qualitative studies, the sample size is typically too small and not randomly selected, so the findings cannot be projected onto the target audience as a whole. It’s not even safe to combine the results of several focus groups in hopes of gaining a quantitative view, as numerous variables are different from group to group, thereby affecting data collection.
Your best approach is to clearly define your research objectives, knowledge gaps, and budget. From there, a strong research firm can help you refine those objectives and determine the most effective means of meeting them. This may indeed include mixing qualitative and quantitative techniques to generate richer market and/or customer knowledge.