Qualitative and quantitative research: which is the most useful method to achieve my goals?

Once you’ve decided to carry out a research to get to know your audience, surely you will ask yourself: what is the best way to do it?

Once you’ve decided to carry out a research to get to know your audience, their tastes and preferences, their relationship with your brand or any other type of information, surely some of the first things you will ask yourself are: what is the best way to do it? Is it enough to implement an online survey? What type of information do I necessarily need to gather in order for the research to bear fruit?

There are many methods, but we can group them into two main segments: quantitative and qualitative. So, it is important to know the difference between the two and define how to use them in order to achieve your goals.

Numbers don't lie

The main purpose of quantitative research is to obtain numbers that allow an objective and precise understanding of a given object of analysis.

This is very useful because by being able to quantify the information, you will eliminate any possible ambiguity: what the data “say” is clear and evident and you will be able to visualize it and establish comparisons through the use of graphics in different formats.

Surveys are a quantitative methodology, widely used by market research specialists. Whether by telephone or online, they are a valuable resource because they allow you to measure and evaluate with the undoubted precision of objective results: numbers.  

Learn to look beyond numbers

Obtaining quantified data is certainly very useful. However, there is another type of information that you will not be able to get through quantitative research, but is equally relevant because it will allow you to put those numbers into context and reveal new valuable data.

We are referring to qualitative research, which will help you understand the whys behind those numbers. Suppose a question in your online form, for instance “Are you satisfied with the quality of our products?”, results in 67% of respondents saying no. Surely, you will want to know what’s behind that number, and that is when you need explanations that will help you put that figure into context.  

In this scenario, the importance of qualitative research emerges. This research comes from methodologies such as behavior observation and allows you to understand, for example, the reasons that may have led those two out of three respondents to say they were not satisfied with the quality of the products, continuing with the previous example.

An online form allows you to find out more about the opinion of people. Following the previous example, one possible way to get qualitative information consists in adding an open-ended question (“Why?”) to the online survey to find out the reasons why someone responded that they were not satisfied with the quality. Those respondents would have to write their reasons.

In addition, personal interviews –individual or group– are one of the most used ways to explore the impulses and reasoning behind responses. These will help you understand your audience’s behavior.

Quantitative or qualitative research: which should I choose?

You will have noticed that the information obtained from both methodologies is not exclusive. Therefore, the simplest way to answer this question is: BOTH. Applying a mixed methodology that combines quantitative research with qualitative research is the best way to get really valuable information.

An open question –and if necessary an individual interview– will allow you to collect valuable additional information to the response “I am not satisfied”, to explore the reasons behind it, to check what words each person uses to justify it, how many times they repeat them and their context. It’s analysis is probably more complex than a close-ended “yes” or “no” question, but the information it provides is vital.

In summary, the quantitative and qualitative methods are complementary. It is necessary to consider the use of both according to our own objectives, in order to obtain a richer analysis panorama and, consequently, be able to make better decisions for our business.

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