Why do we ask for an opinion? Any opinion for that matter? We ask because the person’s opinion matters to our decision making. None of the successful organizational decisions are made through mere guesses or speculations, but through real information gathered from real and valuable people.

Market research surveys, in general, have played a critical role in inducing a thought process in present day’s organizational leaders where information and data dictate policies and decisions.

But in market research, not all information is just numbers and quantitative. Some are just – conversational and qualitative!

Remember the super hit series Desperate Housewives? And do you remember the lovely housewives calling their friends over for a cup of tea or a couple of drinks to discuss the flashy new products they have bought?

It is not just a vague practice to flaunt these products but a thoughtful one because it matters what the friends think. Whether, they agree or disagree to the quality, brand and other features of those products. It matters what people think. Voila! Welcome to the world of qualitative market research.

Qualitative market research is all about understanding people’s beliefs and point of views and what they feel about the situation and what are the deciding factors that influence their behavior.

What is Qualitative Market Research?

Qualitative market research is an open-ended conversational research method that heavily relies on the following market research methods: focus groups, in-depth interviews, and other innovative research methods. It is based on a small but highly validated sample size, usually consisting of 6 to 10 respondents.

The small size enables cost saving, while the “importance” of the samples and the lack of a defined questionnaire allows free and in-depth discussion and analysis of topics. Usually, the discussion is directed by the discretion of the interviewer or market researcher.

It is always better to have more heads than one. By canvassing a group of respondents for ideas and competence the quality of the data that is obtained is far more superior. This concept is known as crowdsourcing, derived from two words “crowd” and “outsourcing”.

Qualitative market research is most frequently used in political campaigning to understand voter perception of political candidates and their policies, interviewing business leaders and diving deeper into topics of interest, psychological profile studies and so on.

Qualitative market research is a relatively less expensive method to understand 2 critical factors in details – “what” the respondents think and feel about a certain topic and “why” they think and feel that way.

Qualitative Market Research Techniques

To conduct qualitative market research usually, one of these market research methods are used:

  1. Focus groups: As the name suggests, a group of people comprising usually of  6-10 members are brought together to discuss a particular product and its market strategies. Usually, experts in that particular field will comprise of the group. This group will have a moderator who will stimulate the discussion amongst the members to derive opinions. Since the focus groups are becoming a rare occurrence, platforms like Communities is on the rise.
  2. In-depth Interviews: It is usually one-on-one interview conducted with a group of people, either face to face or over the telephone. This method is more conversational and asking open-ended questions helps gather better data.
  3. Innovative research methods: In this method, the researcher can click photographs of the person who is answering the questions or can even record their videos. Observing these photographs or videos later would tell the researcher about their responses/reactions to various situations.

Examples of Qualitative Market Research used for business expansion?

Successful businesses tend to use qualitative market research to keep pace with the ongoing market trend, to make better-informed decisions and to achieve business excellence.

Whether your business is a start-up or a well-established entity, qualitative market research is a powerful method to identify your target audience and understand how they will respond to your product.

Before we dig deeper here are some of the real-time examples of qualitative market research case studies:

Some examples of business expansion where qualitative market research plays a critical role by crowdsourcing concrete ideas for optimized decision-making :

  1. Branding: Many companies fail to understand how consumers perceive their brand or what is the brand positioning in comparison to their competitors. The research is typically done by conducting interviews with customers or organizing focus groups to collect feedback on marketing content and collaterals. In this way, the surveyor can explore different topics in-depth and get feedback from the respondents. Using this market research method, brands can gather information that can help them upscale and reposition their brand better in the market.
  1. Understanding the Consumer Behaviour: Sometimes, organizations/ companies/ entrepreneurs need more information about their consumer in order to place their product in a better manner. To do so they might need information about their gender, age, marital status etc. Qualitative market research helps them gather such information. For understanding the consumer behavior conducting in-depth interviews is the best option, as these interviews are conducted on one to one basis a decent amount of information can be collected.
  1. Measuring the reach of marketing activities: Many businesses go an extra mile to do a better job in promoting their brands. Here is where their marketing activities come into play. Market research can provide organizations information about their marketing effectiveness by gathering first-hand information on how consumers look at their marketing message. This helps organizations maximize their marketing budget.
  1. Identifying new business opportunities: Market research helps organizations explore new opportunities leading to business expansion. By gathering data through market research through focus groups, organizations can pin a location, understand business dynamics, know their key competitors etc., to grow their business in the right direction.
  2. Getting insights on products: If a company comes up with a new product or looking to improve a current one, it is always better to take a market research in order to understand how acceptable is the product amongst the consumers. When a product comes to the market people have an opinion about its shape, size, utility, color, features etc. Qualitative market research through in-depth interviews will help gather a systematic data that can be later used to modify or make the existing product better.

What are the applications of Qualitative Market Research?

Since this is a relatively less expensive and a more flexible method of market research there are a few applications of this market research methodology:

  1. It helps to understand the needs of the customers and their behavioral pattern.
  2. What consumers think and perceive your product as.
  3. To understand the efficiency of your business planning and also to know if the strategies and planning that you put in place are working or not.
  4. What sort of marketing messages has a strong impact on the consumers and what just fall on deaf ears?
  5. Whether or not there is a demand for your product or services in the market?

Ultimately, qualitative market research is all about asking people to elaborate on their opinion to get a better insight on their behavioral pattern. It’s about understanding  “Why” even before “What”.

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