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#3 - Why Marketing Fails | Qualitative v.s Quantitative Research

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

In the 1990s Pepsi launched a new product by the name of Crystal Clear Pepsi. It was a clear caffeine-free soda that tasted exactly like Pepsi. Back then customers were interested in clean and clear products but they didn’t think of Cola as one of them. The idea failed catastrophically, sales dropped and then eventually Pepsi had to gradually withdraw the product from the market. Pepsi was trying to target a niche that simply didn't exist. Similar products such as Zima by Miller Coors failed during this time and it is fair to say that the market wasn’t ready for this kind of product. Pepsi saw the writing on the wall but just misread it. Thus a correct interpretation of surveys, focus groups, demographics, and every marketing research method is extremely vital. And this can only happen if you can understand the core concepts of the methods employed by their merits and limitations.


Qualitative & Quantitative Method

The most commonly employed research techniques are qualitative and quantitative methods. Both of these methods play a key role in research. Each research type has its method and objective and both are important for gaining valuable market insight.

  • Quantitative studies - Provide data that can be expressed in numbers—thus, their name. Because the data is in a numeric form, we can apply statistical tests in making statements about the data. These include descriptive statistics like the mean, median, and standard deviation, but can also include inferential statistics like t-tests, ANOVAs, or multiple regression correlations (MRC). Statistical analysis lets us derive important facts from research data, including preference trends, differences between groups, and demographics.

  • Qualitative studies - Describe the qualities or characteristics of something. You cannot easily reduce these descriptions to numbers. Qualitative research studies can provide you with details about human behavior, emotion, and personality characteristics that quantitative studies cannot match. Qualitative data includes information about user behaviors, needs, desires, routines, use cases, and a variety of other information that is essential in designing a product that will fit into a user's life.

This is a systematic investigation of phenomena by gathering quantifiable data and performing mathematical and statistical computations on the data. The aim is to glean reliable, standardized facts and statistics to guide key business decisions, such as “is there a strong market for our product?” or “how many of our customers care about this benefit?”

  • Quantitative research - Collects information from existing and potential customers using sampling methods and sending out online surveys, online polls, questionnaires, etc., the results of which can be depicted in the form of numerical. After careful understanding of these numbers to predict the future of a product or service and make changes accordingly.

  • Quantitative studies’ - Great strength is providing data that is descriptive—for example, allowing us to capture a snapshot of a user population—but we encounter difficulties when it comes to their interpretation. For example, Gallup polls commonly provide data about approval rates for the President of the United States, as shown in Figure 1, but don’t provide the crucial information that we would need to interpret that data.

Quantitative Research Methods

Quantitative research techniques can be further categorized into two parts. The primary research method being the most commonly employed is the one in which the researcher focuses on collecting data directly instead of using data from previously conducted research.

This includes survey research, correlational research, and casual comparative research.

While secondary research method focuses on using data from existing sources such as internet, government and non-government sources and commercial informational sources.

Primary Research Method

  • Survey Research - This is the most fundamental tool employed for quantitative research. It is a set questionnaire to extract information from your sample of respondents. This includes online polls, online surveys, and paper questionnaires. Every organization whether big or small intends to know what and how their customers feel about their products and services and survey research provides an easy way to achieve this.

This type of research can be conducted with a specific target audience group and also can be conducted across multiple groups along with comparative analysis. The sample space for this type of research must be selected randomly to maintain the correctness and accuracy of your research. Previously surveys were conducted face to face or through phone calls, but with the advancement in technology now the trends have changed and the online medium such as emails and social media present a more feasible way for this.

  • Correlation Research - Researchers use this technique to establish a relationship between two closely-knit quantities to observe how the variation in one of the quantities would affect the other quantity. A minimum of two different groups is required to successfully conduct this research method. Without assuming various aspects, a relationship between two groups or entities must be established.

The relation once established is analyzed by mathematical methods to come up with patterns, trends, and relations that influence the subject. Ideally, it is advised not to make conclusions merely based on correlational research. This is because it is not mandatory that if two variables are in sync that they are interrelated.

Example of Correlational Research Questions:

  1. The relationship between stress and depression.

  2. The equation between fame and money

  3. Lower Opening Rates of emails that contain images

  • Experimental Research - This technique is particularly based on theories that have not been proven in the past are merely a supposition. Research is then conducted afterward to prove or disprove the hypothesis. This technique is particularly used in natural and social sciences but can also be applied in marketing research.

Secondary Research Method

Secondary research or desk research uses already existing data. The data is summarized and analyzed to increase the overall effectiveness of your research. This method helps to validate the data collected through primary research and aids in proving or disproving the previously collected data.

The most commonly employed secondary sources are:

  • Internet Sources

  • Government and non-government sources

  • Public Libraries

  • Educational Institutes

  • Commercial Information Sources (TV, Newspapers, Magazines )

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research focuses on obtaining data through open-ended and conversational communication. This method is designed to reveal the behavior and perception of the target audience. The results of quantitative methods are more descriptive and conclusions can be drawn very easily from the obtained data, unlike the qualitative method.

The most commonly employed quantitative research techniques are:

  • Interviews - The best way to conduct qualitative research is to conduct a one-on-one interview with your customer. This is purely a conversational method and invites opportunities to get details in depth from the respondent.

One of the advantages of this method provides a great opportunity to gather precise data about what people believe and what their motivations are. These interviews can either be conducted face to face or over phone calls. But the former provides a better opportunity to read the body language of the respondents and match their responses.

  • Focus Group - A focus group is one of the most common ways to apply qualitative research methods. This includes around 6-10 respondents from your target market. The basic advantage of this method is that you don't necessarily have to interact with the group in person. This is generally an expensive method but is highly applied for testing new products or new concepts.

  • Ethnographic Research - This research design aims to understand the cultures, motivation and natural settings first hand instead of focusing on interviews and discussion. It is an in-depth method that requires the researcher to adapt to the target audience environment. This is a challenging and time-consuming method that solely relies on the expertise of the researcher to observe and infer data.

  • Case Study - This method has evolved into a valuable qualitative research method over the past few years. Although this method might sound a bit difficult to execute, however, it is one of the simplest ways of researching as it involves a deep dive and thorough understanding of the data collection methods and inferring the data.


When To Use Qualitative Or Quantitative Method?

Up till now it would very clear that both of the methods have special traits in the way they approach the problem statement. A quantitative method equips you with numbers and statistics while the qualitative method provides details about human behavior, emotions, and personality characteristics. Quantitative research is generally used to confirm or test something such as a theory or hypothesis. While the qualitative approach is used to develop a deep understanding of something such as concepts, thoughts or experiences.

Before you begin your research, you must check on the following aspects of your research to determine which method suits you the best.

  • Is your research-oriented to test a hypothesis or exploring perceptions? If you are testing a hypothesis then you should adopt the qualitative approach, while if you are interested in exploring perceptions then the quantitative method suits you the best.

  • Is your research related to why customers have certain perceptions, or you intend to measure those perceptions? Qualitative research is advised if you are up to finding the reasons behind the customer's perceptions, on the contrary, quantitative methods, are recommended for measuring these perceptions.

  • Do we want to map out the experience of an individual respondent, or make assumptions about a larger audience? For mapping an individual's experience you need a qualitative approach, but for mapping assumptions of a larger audience, you need a quantitative approach.

Integrative Approach

A robust and comprehensive market research employee both the qualitative and quantitative approach since they both offer valuable information and an integrative approach helps to develop a valuable insight. The right mix varies for each organization and depends on several factors such a budget, time frame and scope of research.

By conducting interviews you find out your customers' satisfaction. Then through open-ended surveys, you learn new aspects (merits and demerits) of your product. By further expanding the scope of your survey you can develop new insight on a larger scale.

It’s also possible to start with a survey to find out the overall trends, followed by interviews to better understand the reasons behind the trends.

Relevance With Market Research

The qualitative approach answers the "what" and "why" aspects of your problem statement. Consider that a convenience store is trying to improve its sales. The management observes that the number of men visiting the facility is more than the number of women. One good way to determine why the females aren't visiting the store is to have a one on one interview with them.

A random sample space was chosen containing female individuals visiting the neighboring shops and malls. After interviews, it was concluded that the lack of female visits was because the store had lesser female products.

On the other hand Quantitative approach provides a very comprehensive approach since it offers no scope for biasing or personal judgment since a number are fair in most cases. The numbers presented are extremely reliable and present a clear picture of the research problem. This process has a particularly wide range of scope.

Let’s say you wanted to know the average height of all professional basketball players in the NBA. To conduct that research, you could do a survey and call up each player on the phone and ask them for their height. Or you rely on secondary sources and get this information over the internet.


When you are conducting market research it is important to combine both qualitative and quantitative approach to help you understand your market. Remember the two techniques that we have covered in this article and use it to help you conduct a successful market research.


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