Marketing Strategy

Qualitative or Quantitative Marketing Research: Which is Better?

10.28.2021 4 Minutes

Marketing research plays a crucial role in the implementation of business strategy; and both qualitative and quantitative research have their own unique benefits and considerations. So which type of research is better?

The truth is, both types of research are valuable for informing business and marketing decisions. Determining which is best starts with understanding the differences between the two types of research, the potential impacts of each, and what your firm’s objectives are.

What is quantitative research?

Quantitative research is numbers-based and uses statistical and quantifiable methods to collect information on a target market. Results are measurable through this method, and quantitative research can be used to test and validate assumptions. Examples of tools to conduct quantitative research include questionnaires and survey, of which questions can either be closed-ended (structured) or open-ended (unstructured). The latter, open-ended questions, would provide you with qualitative data.

Which quantitative research method should your firm consider for its initiatives?

Both questionnaires and surveys are forms of quantitative research and while similar, they hold two different meanings.

Questionnaires are a written set of questions that can be thought of as written interviews. The main difference between a survey and a questionnaire is that surveying includes the collection and analysis of the information, whereas the questionnaire is the list of questions itself. In other words, questionnaires are one part of the surveying process.

Surveys are a great way for organizations to find communication gaps in what they are communicating to their clients and prospects in the marketplace. Findings that result from a survey may lead to an awareness of areas of opportunity within or around your firm’s offerings and brand. Surveys can also be conducted internally, which offers teams an opportunity to share their perspectives and provide feedback on their individual employee experiences.

There are a number of benefits associated with surveying, including the ability to collect data in an unbiased way. Additionally, findings that result from a survey can be used to apply inferences to a broader population when a large enough pool of responses is gathered.

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research, simply put, is non-numerical data. This type of research is used to collect information about a target group of customers, employees, or prospects to inform overall marketing strategy, pulling from visual, textual, and auditory data. Gathered through conversations and observations of individuals within a target market, findings can be used to uncover sentiments about services and offerings provided, or those a company is considering offering in the case of market research used for product development.

Which qualitative research method should your firm consider for its initiative?

Both open-ended survey questions and interviews are forms of qualitative research that each have different purposes.

Open-ended survey questions are questions that aren’t limited to a specific set of options, allowing respondents, or individuals completing the survey, to answer questions in their own words. Example use cases for open-ended survey questions include wanting to understand how respondents think without the time or resources to dedicate to conducting an interview.

Consider the level of effort involved in analyzing open-ended survey results before developing a survey with only this question type used.

Interviewing in the context of qualitative research is the meeting or exchanging of information around a topic with the goal of uncovering key insights for your firm. Interviews can take place on an individual or group level, and can occur in person, over the telephone, or via video conference. Example use cases for interviewing include instances where you need to dig deep and understand sentiments on a smaller scale.

Consider interviewing both clients and prospective clients when gathering customer sentiments.

Unlike its counterpart, qualitative research can help organizations drill down to uncover deeper insights by discussing specific experiences, and it comes with the ability to understand data points and observations in context. It can also present the opportunity to ask clarifying questions. From these insights, teams can develop themes based on what’s seen or heard and use these findings to make decisions for the firm.

What are the impacts of each?

Both internally and externally, insights uncovered can help firms understand their most profitable markets and offerings, uncover untapped opportunities, identify company differentiators, and determine top competitors. These insights can also inform messaging development, which can be used to communicate a firm’s brand story.

Consider engaging an outside party to conduct the interviews or to structure the surveys in a way that encourages increased engagement on larger initiatives such as product development or undergoing a brand refresh. However, should you decide to conduct a survey yourself, there are numerous tools and templates available online.

The results from each type of research can have a tremendous impact on a firm’s success — ultimately helping you deliver a better experience, whether to employees, clients, or prospects. Research is also important for maintaining a competitive edge; enabling firms to keep a pulse on engagement levels with employees and clients.

Once initial findings are uncovered, organizations should consider periodic check ins to keep a pulse on sentiments over time where relevant.

How both can work together

The power of both qualitative and quantitative research becomes magnified when used together. Findings from the quantitative stage can be used to guide discussions and conversations in the qualitative stage, providing the opportunity to validate and gather more in-depth intel.

When considering conducting research, begin with clarity on objectives and an understanding of what information is needed to make an informed decision. Start with a meeting between key stakeholders to determine the overarching goal and develop an action plan.

Both forms of research can prove valuable to inform decisions and really, neither is more important than the other. Both provide insights, intel, and different data sets to work from.

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