Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Market Research

Market research comes in many shapes and sizes. This includes qualitative and quantitative research. There is a difference between these two approaches in the industry. Ultimately, the direction you choose should be guided by your objectives and goals. Each type offers its own unique pros and cons. It often helps to receive advice from a professional market research company when scoping out your project.

Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Market Research

Qualitative and quantitative market research are two very different approaches.

Qualitative Market Research

Qualitative market research aims to explore. The methodologies used for qualitative research focus on diving deep, asking why, and exploring mindsets with great detail. The methodologies focus on obtaining smaller sample sizes so more time can be spent with each individual respondent. This includes 90-minute focus groups, or 30-minute 1-on-1 interviews.

Common Types of Qualitative Research

Focus groups are one of, if not the most common form of qualitative market research. These involve a small group of about 4 to 12 participants and a moderator. The moderator poses questions to the group and listens to the dialogue. Throughout the group, participants are often asked to complete activities to further engage discussion and extract insights.

In-depth interviews or IDIs are another form of qualitative market research. These are 1-on-1 discussions between a participant and a moderator either in-person, over the phone, or through a screen share online. These conversations are more intimate and there is no group bias interjected.

Quantitative Market Research

Quantitative market research aims to measure. The methodologies used for quantitative research focus on benchmarking, quantifiable statistics, and measurement. The methodologies here focus on obtaining larger sample sizes so although time spent with each participant is less, obtaining a larger pool of respondents allows a higher degree of statistical reliability.

Margins of error are often applied to quantitative studies using a 95% confidence level. A total of 100 responses will obtain a +/- 10% margin of error whereas 400 responses will obtain a +/- 5% margin of error. Need a margin of error calculator? Here you go.

Common Types of Quantitative Research

The most common type of quantitative research is likely surveys. Surveys aim to collect a large amount of feedback from respondents. Whereas with qualitative research, you can go deeper, with quantitative you are forced to be broader. The idea is to collect statistically reliable feedback, not in-depth feedback. Although some of the best quantitative studies can do both.


Several forms of market research can be considered both qualitative or quantitative. For instance, shop-alongs. Shop-alongs are experiences where a research joins a participant during an in-store experience, recording behavior and asking questions. This could be qualitative if it is 15 shop-alongs, or quantitative if it is 100.

The choice of one of the other is achieved by simply asking yourself: "Do I want to measure, explore, or do both?" If you want to measure lean quantitative. If you want to explore lean qualitative. If you want to do both, pursue both types.


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Drive Research is a U.S. market research company. Our team services clients in a variety of industries from manufacturing, to financial services, small business, and retail.

Questions about an upcoming project or need advice? Contact us at info@driveresearch.com or call us at 315-303-2040.

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