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Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Most business owners know that customer feedback (and market research) is essential if they want to keep their customers happy and their businesses profitable. However, very few have been trained or coached to know the best strategies for conducting this research, though. 

The science of market research is often shrouded in mystery which leads most businesses to hire expensive consultants, but there are some basics that any business owner can and should know how to do themselves.

For example, they might not understand when to do qualitative research and when to do quantitative research. They also might not know what these terms mean or how they’re different from each other.

Today, we’re going to explain the difference between a qualitative vs quantitative survey. You’ll also learn the benefits of both types of research, as well as how you can use them to get the information you want for your business.

What Is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research is all about gathering information that helps to describe a specific topic. It addresses the qualities of a customer and their experience and is less focused on collecting measurable data. 

From a market research/business perspective, examples of qualitative research include things like opinions, first impressions, and general views on a product, service, or company as a whole.

Qualitative research doesn’t have a lot of structure. The main goal is to take a deeper dive into a topic and learn about people’s motives, thought patterns, and attitudes.

When gathering qualitative research, companies ask open-ended questions so that respondents can provide them with plenty of detail and explain their experience in their own words. 

What Is Quantitative Research?

Unlike qualitative research, quantitative research is all about gathering information that you can measure, analyze, and quantify

The goal of quantitative research is to gather numerical data that can be transformed into statistics. These statistics, in turn, can be used to measure a company’s performance in terms of things like sales, customer satisfaction rates, and the number of repeat customers the company has seen. 

Quantitative research involves asking closed-ended questions (yes/no, multiple-choice/ scale of 1-10, etc.). This makes it easier for the company to get numerical data and quantify its progress and performance. 

When to Use Qualitative Research

Both qualitative and quantitative research have their place when you’re trying to learn more about your customers and make positive changes to your business. The key is to know when to use each type of research.

Qualitative research and the use of open-ended questions work well when you’re trying to gather detailed information about a specific topic. It can be a good starting point if you want to gain a better understanding of what people do and don’t like about your company or your products or services, as well as any specific problems they may be experiencing that you could help them solve in the future. 

In addition to being a good starting point, it also makes sense to use qualitative research when you’re in the final stages of a project. You can ask open-ended questions to gather quotes from customers about their experience or whether or not they’d recommend your products or services to someone else. These quotes can then come in handy when you’re putting together a report or want to illustrate a particular point.

When you hear or read people’s descriptions of your company, it also makes it easier for you to identify blind spots and see things in a new way. You often can’t get that when you’re only focused on the numbers. 

When to Use Quantitative Research

In the same way that qualitative research has its place, the same is true of quantitative research. This type of research is effective when it comes to validating a hypothesis. 

It helps you determine whether or not something is truly a problem based on the number of people who have reported it, for example. 

When you rely on qualitative research only, you might assume that something is a serious issue. When you look at the numerical data, though, you could find that a specific complaint was a one-time thing and not something that requires extensive attention from your team. This could save you from investing resources in a decision that wouldn’t provide any significant benefits to your company. 

Quantitative research also plays a role in helping you find general answers. If you want to get simple information about your customers, such as whether they prefer one color over another or one type of product over something else, a quantitative approach is a good way to go. 

There’s no need to make these matters more complicated by giving people open-ended questions when you’re not looking for a lengthy, detailed answer.

Striking a Balance Between a Qualitative vs Quantitative Survey

As you can see, there’s a time and a place for both qualitative research and quantitative research. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one or the other. In fact, doing so would be bad for your business. 

Striking a balance between the two will help you gather essential information for your business so it can grow and thrive long-term. How do you find this balance, though?

As a general rule, when conducting market research, it’s a good idea to start with qualitative research and open-ended questions. This can help you get more information about the specific problems and pain points your customers are experiencing. It also allows you to find out what they do and do not like. 

After doing qualitative research, you can use quantitative research for refinement purposes and to confirm your hypotheses. You can also use it to narrow down your options when introducing a new product or service that addresses a pain point brought up during the qualitative research and figure out what people prefer. 

Start Your Research Today

Both qualitative and quantitative research are key to learning about your customers and keeping your business afloat. There’s no need to choose between one or the other, and you’ll get the best information when you utilize each type of research at the appropriate time. 

Be sure to keep these details in mind when designing your next survey. That way, you’ll know which types of questions to ask your respondents and how to the data that you need from them in the most efficient way possible.

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