3 Common Mistakes with Qualitative Market Research

Qualitative market research is a subjective process. This does not mean that it is not valuable or insightful but rather it is non-scientific. The data and feedback obtained through qualitative research is less cut and dry and needs to be interpreted. In a focus group or in-depth interview (IDI) you'll gather plenty of specific feedback but it is not statistically reliable.

Think of it this way using some simple math. If you stopped 10 random people and asked them to name their favorite NFL team on the street, you are likely to get a few teams named. Being in-person you're also likely to get into a conversation with each fan as to why their team is either good or bad this season.

Is the depth of the feedback good? Yes. But is the 10 people really representative of the country as a whole when it comes to favorite NFL teams? No.

On the flip side if you conducted a random online survey with 1,000 people across the country and asked them their favorite NFL team, the results would be much more reliable and accurate but may lack some of the depth and anecdotal comments you'd get from your in-person street interviews.

Qualitative and Quantitative. There's a major difference and we'll get into 3 common mistakes that are often made where market research firms apply quantitative principles to qualitative research.

3 Common Mistakes with Qualitative Market Research

Drive Research is a market research firm in Upstate, NY.

Mistake 1: Exploratory Versus Measuring

The main goal of quantitative market research is to measure. While the main goal of qualitative market research is to explore. Confusing the two can be detrimental to your market research.

Exploratory objectives should center around "why?" With qualitative market research you want to explore opinions, perceptions, and motivations. It gives you the opportunity to dive deep and get great detail and depth as you inquire with participants.

This should not be confused with quantitative where the focus is more on measurement. How many are aware of our company? What is the market's perception of our company? Any time you want an exact measurement with statistically reliable data, quantitative market research is the route to take.

If you see numbers or percentages in a focus group report, it's usually the first sign that these principles are being mixed up. The report should summarize the participant feedback. Most, the majority, some, about half, etc. Using these terms keeps the subjectivity of qualitative market research top-of-mind.

Mistake 2: Casting a Small Sample Size to a Large Population

A common mistake with qualitative market research is casting general population opinions based on a small number of participants. Qualitative market research is subjective. It is not realistic or accurate to state that 10 interviews with customers matches or represents the opinion of all 15,000 of your customers.

Small sample sizes are just that: small. If another 10 in-depth interviews were completed, the feedback could vary greatly or in a completely opposite direction. Stating that 10 interviews is representative of a population is not accurate or reliable. This is why a qualitative and quantitative approach is always recommended as a combination in market research.

Mistake 3: Creating Quotas and Allowing No Flexibility

One of the other areas where qualitative market research often gets misconstrued is when quotas are created. Organizations will often create hard quotas for focus groups, in-depth interviews, or online bulletin boards. The focus group will require 5 males and 5 females or at least 50% minority ethnicities. You can see how this relates to both mistakes 1 and 2.

Basing an entire marketing strategy or campaign off of a handful of participants is a dangerous practice. Although we agree that obtaining a mix is crucial in order to make the small sample representative of a larger pool, allow some flexibility with the recruit.

At the end of the day when you are completing 20 in-depth interviews (IDIs) will it really matter if 9 are with minority participants instead of 10?

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Drive Research is a market research firm in Upstate, NY. Our services include both quantitative and qualitative market research. This includes specializations in online surveys, focus groups, intercept surveys, and phone interviews.

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