How to Combine Qual & Quant Research to Create Business Impact

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Gone are the days of purist approaches to research, when single methodologies were recommended as a solution to your business/research objectives. These days you’ll struggle to find a research agency that offers either quantitative or qualitative services.

Why? Because in almost all instances a single approach methodology will not meet your business objectives. There may well be small operations who specialise in a single discipline (qualitative or quantitative) however they are extremely unlikely to work in complete isolation as they often choose to form partnerships with others specialising in the opposite discipline to themselves in order to offer all-encompassing research solutions.

Short vs Long Term Needs

The way I think about a single discipline approach is that ‘you can’t eat without drinking’, you may be so hungry that the only thing on your mind is to get some food. Devouring that chocolate cake you so desire will meet your needs in the short term, however it won’t be long before you are craving that much needed ice cold drink!

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"It is important to balance the short term desire for market research with the long term need."

A desire to get results quickly in order to make key business decisions can often result in a similar short-sighted approach to research design, which when complete, leaves you craving for those unanswered questions ‘why was that particular design preferred?’ or ‘yes we have a critique of packaging design, but will it stand out on the shelf?’ ‘What is the propensity to purchase amongst the target market?’’

From an end client perspective a quantitative survey is may be seen as the most viable methodology to meet their business needs, it ticks the following boxes:

  • Quick turn around
  • Inclusion of an extensive number of questions
  • Robust sample size
  • Outputs are statistically valid to use in a business case

Take for an example packaging design; the client has 4 possible designs to choose from so a survey is desired to understand which design their target market prefers – simple and effective! Or is it? Whist a survey can provide a facility to capture ‘why’ respondents prefer a certain design, this does not always prove insightful. With no ability to prompt, dig deeper or truly understand the reasons behind respondent decisions this methodology alone can sometimes provide an underwhelming result, gaining responses such as; ‘because I like it the best’, or ‘not sure I just do’. Taking this one step further, with no qualitative input in the initial design process, how can the client even be sure any of the designs meet the will attract their target market?

How to Combine Qual & Quant Methods

There are infinite options when it comes to combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies to create business impact, and there is no hard and fast way to give definitive guide. In line with my outlook market research overall, I believe that a bespoke approach is the right approach for every market research project; ‘off the shelf’ market research methodologies simple fail to cut the mustard!

The best way to begin is to first consider the outcome you desire – put simply, what do you want to find out? Not only do you need to consider which methodologies will best meet your needs, but how to best implement them, can both methodologies run at the same time and complement the outcomes of each other? Or do they need to be run in sequence in order to inform each other?

Parallel implementation:Used in instances where robust statistical results are required to together with clear reasoning’s as to why the outcomes have been recorded, e.g. ‘new food product testing’ a taste testing quantitative hall tests may be required to blind test a new product against its competitors. As part of the hall test a random selection of respondents can be recruited to participate in qualitative depth interviews to fully understand the reasons behind their choices in the taste testing exercise’.

In sequence implementation: Used when one discipline is required to aid design or validate the results of another. Product development is a key example here, qualitative research prior to design can help understand the needs and wants of the target market, it can also aid the design of the quantitative survey used to predict potential market penetration levels. Thus providing a well-rounded review of where how their product compares to key competitors and a full understanding of why their target market think this.

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"Parallel & sequential implementation are two of the best ways to combine qual & quant research."

There are instances where single discipline methodologies are the most appropriate approach, however you must always consider the role you are expecting any market research to play in your business decisions. Investment in the ‘right’ research design is paramount to a successful outcome – as the old saying goes ‘you only get out what you put in!’

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