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A comprehensive market research process involves a variety of different types of market research. Perhaps the clearest way to delineate between different types of market research is whether they are classed as qualitative or quantitative market research methods. 

The role of qualitative research is to explore ideas, concepts, and opinions, whereas quantitative research seeks to quantify behaviors in a more systematic, scalable, and measurable fashion. It’s critical that any market research project uses both these types of research methodologies to deliver reliable insights based on a firm foundation of hypotheses..

Qualitative and quantitative research methods work in perfect harmony when viewed as part of the wider market research process. Qualitative tools tend to be utilized during the exploratory phase of market research to help define the parameters and scope of the project. After the exploratory research concludes, researchers shift their focus to quantitative tools that help them glean more defined answers.

By utilizing different types of qualitative and quantitative techniques, researchers will extract a trove of highly valuable information from participants. But in order to do this effectively, it’s important researchers are aware of the different types of qualitative and quantitative research, when and how to apply them, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each research method. 

Let’s explore the different types of market research.

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Market Research

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Qualitative Market Research

Qualitative techniques tend to be used early in the research process. They enable researchers to identify common ideas, needs, and concepts that merit further exploration. 

Qualitative Research: A Definition

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research collects and analyzes unstructured data through techniques which include observations, interviews, and focus groups. Qualitative research enables researchers to develop research hypotheses and uncover context-rich insights for a wide variety of different concepts. 

Types of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is usually conducted on a relatively small scale; often with as few as 10 or 20 research participants. The most common types of qualitative research include:

  • Focus Groups: A group of 6 - 10 participants and a moderator facilitates a discussion that explores various aspects of the research topic. Participants are encouraged to share their opinions, debate where appropriate, and explain the rationale behind their beliefs.
  • In-Depth Interviews: Researchers conduct individual interviews, typically lasting around 30 minutes each. Interviews will have a semi-structured agenda with the flexibility to encourage respondents to expand on interesting thoughts in more detail.
  • Observational Techniques: Researchers observe participants as they undertake a series of tasks. Examples include accompanying participants on a trip to the grocery store and asking them to explain their purchases, or watching participants interact with a new product for the first time.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Qualitative Research

Qualitative methodologies have certain strengths and weaknesses that researchers should consider when designing their market research strategy. The strengths of qualitative research include:

  • Nuance: Qualitative techniques enable researchers to understand complex ideas and concepts in great detail and offer a window into the decision making process of research participants.
  • Cost Effectiveness: Researchers typically conduct qualitative research with a small number of participants, meaning that many types of qualitative research can be relatively affordable to conduct.
  • Flexibility: Techniques are flexible and, when new concepts or ideas emerge, it’s straightforward for researchers to adapt their approach and explore new topics without redesigning the whole market research process. 

There are also some limitations to qualitative research, which is why it’s important that qualitative techniques are not the only ones used in the research process. These include:

  • Labor Intensive: Designing and administering qualitative research can be time-consuming. Researchers need to find appropriate participants, design the research agenda, and determine the best way to interpret responses.
  • Difficult to Analyze Data: Qualitative research does not produce numerical results, meaning that analysis of the results can be subjective. Sometimes, market researchers may come away with entirely different conclusions from the same focus group or set of interviews.
  • Challenging to Control for Variables: Because research is conducted with few participants, it can be difficult to control for variables and ensure that the sample is representative. One example: focus groups can easily be derailed by a particularly vociferous participant. 

Quantitative Market Research

Quantitative techniques are used to prove or disprove the hypotheses generated by qualitative techniques. Quantitative research adopts various primary research techniques to produce vast quantities of data. Research is typically conducted with large sample sizes so that researchers can draw statistically significant conclusions that are representative of the wider population they seek to understand.

Quantitative Research: A Definition

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research techniques collect and analyze numerical data in order to prove or disprove hypotheses, test relationships, and uncover insights. These techniques tend to be variations on surveys and ask respondents a series of structured questions that produce raw data, which is easy for researchers to analyze.

Types of Quantitative Research

Quantitative research inherently seeks to produce more measurable outcomes, and utilizes rigorous, data-driven techniques. Surveys are the most common way to administer quantitative research, and can be used in several ways, including:

  • Traditional Survey: A conventional market research survey primarily asks participants close-ended survey questions. These can be posed in a variety of ways, including yes/no questions, choice matrix questions, or ranked choice questions.
  • Conjoint Analysis: This advanced type of survey enables researchers to understand the tradeoffs customers make in purchasing decisions. Conducting conjoint analysis requires sophisticated software, and helps uncover research data that is important for product design and pricing decisions.
  • TURF Analysis: standing for Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency, TURF analysis estimates the potential of new products and services. By analyzing survey responses using statistical techniques, researchers can define the most optimal product configurations and marketing messages. 

Strengths and Weaknesses of Quantitative Research

There are various advantages and limitations of quantitative research techniques. These further highlight the importance of using both quantitative and qualitative types of market research. Notable advantages include:

  • Analytical Rigor: Research is conducted on a large scale and produces reliable, data-driven insights that can be accurately projected onto a larger population. Many quantitative research techniques produce large datasets which researchers can use to conduct sophisticated analysis and uncover unique insights. 
  • Simple to Administer: Quantitative research routinely produces high response rates as the research methods utilized are relatively easy for participants to engage with. It’s easy to administer surveys over the internet, allowing respondents to participate on their own time.
  • Advanced Techniques: Advanced quantitative research techniques--like conjoint analysis and TURF analysis--uncover insights that other, more simplistic research methods would not. These techniques also enable researchers to quantify findings in a manner that is easy for commercial functions to understand. 

There are also some drawbacks to quantitative research. These include:

  • Limited Scope: Quantitative research tells researchers what participants are thinking, but it doesn’t always tell them why. One solution to this is to utilize prediction market research, which combines the rigor of quantitative research with a rich layer of qualitative rationale.
  • Inflexible: Once quantitative research has been started, it’s very difficult to make adjustments to the research without starting from scratch. If new information comes to light, it’s challenging for researchers to update their approach.
  • Time Consuming: Research often requires the submission of hundreds--if not thousands--of responses. Soliciting these from a representative sample takes time. Many techniques also require sophisticated analysis, adding additional time to the project and delaying the time to insight for the organization. 

Combining Qualitative and Quantitative: A Balanced Approach to Market Research

It’s evident that both qualitative and quantitative market research techniques have an important role to play in the wider market research process. The two approaches complement each other well, and the merits of one approach tend to cancel out the drawbacks of the other. 

In most market research projects, qualitative research methodologies should be used in the exploratory phase to develop hypotheses and define parameters. Following that, researchers should adopt quantitative research techniques to test these hypotheses and add analytical rigor to the process.

One market research method that offers researchers a hybrid of both qualitative and quantitative techniques is prediction market research. In prediction market research, respondents answer questions using an online betting game and place wagers using virtual currency to indicate their confidence in the bets placed. They then explain the rationale behind their predictions. This helps bridge the gap between qualitative and quantitative techniques and enables organizations to obtain accurate predictions in less time. 

Related: Learn more about Prediction Market Research with HUUNU® Futures

To learn more about different types of market research, check out our Ultimate Guide to Market Research, or schedule a call with one of Cipher’s market research experts. 

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