Qualitative vs Quantitative Research: How to Decide Which Research Type is Right For You

As a business owner or marketer in the quest for actionable insights, we often find ourselves looking to fill in the gaps in our understanding of our business and customer. Marketing research does just that and more! If you’re new to market research and the market research process you may not know where to begin and what kind of research you need to resolve your burning questions. The first step in the marketing research process is identifying the research need and the questions you are trying resolve. Doing so will set you up to design your study and ultimately, answer whether qualitative or quantitative research is best suited to answer those questions.

Need a refresher on the marketing research process? Here’s a diagram from My Market Research Methods.


 When should you consider qualitative research?

Qualitative research is most effective in situations you wish to further develop or dig deeper on. It’s directional, not definitive and therefore results do not speak for the entire applicable population. Consider the scenarios in which you wish to understand underlying emotions. Unlike quant, qualitative research allows you to emphasize the emotional, verbal and observational components of responding to questions. Consider that structuring this data into actionable insights can be costly in time and money.

When should you consider quantitative research?

While qualitative provides you with directional data that can offer insights in to meaning, subtext and context – qualitative can offer the confirmation and definition you’ve been looking for. Quantitative is numbers and statistical analysis based. Surveys completed through quantitative research are structured to provide answers to one question at a time. If you’re looking for “how much” or “how many”, quantitative research has the conclusive answer you’re looking for.

The guide above just scratches the surface on the capabilities of quantitative and qualitative research to answer important questions and resolve business challenges. Ultimately, which you choose is largely based on where you are in understanding the issue at hand. Are you just kicking off and in need of a more conceptual understanding? Or, are you diagnosing and resolving a specific detail of a largely defined and understood process? In any case, no matter how well you know the subject matter, marketing research can quickly prove to be valuable in furthering your most important marketing decisions.

Looking for ways to package and present your existing data with data visualization tools? Check out my post comparing Tableau with Canva!

Published by Diandrah Lamarche

Creative eCommerce manager with a passion for leveraging data and digital capabilities to build online branded experiences that expand audiences, deliver innovation and exceed business goals. Ask me about eCommerce, being a mom, cooking (or eating) and travel.

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