Choosing Qualitative Research Methods

Focus Groups, Individual Depth Interviews or Online Qualitative

In trying to decide between qualitative research methods, it’s important to recognize that there isn’t one “right” way.  Marketing research is an attempt to understand the lives, minds and behaviors of the people to whom you are selling goods and services, to help you make better decisions.

Decision Making Among Chocolates

What You Didn’t Know to Ask

Well done surveys enable you to put statistics behind opinions, so that you can feel confident that 35% of customers, for example, have bought a competitor’s product in the past month.  They are excellent for quantifying your topics.  On the other hand, qualitative research methods, like focus groups and IDIs, uses questions that are open-ended, and creative exercises that probe unconscious thoughts and opinions.  You can explore topics and probe answers that you may not have even known to include on a survey.

Focus Groups Create Energy & Spur Ideas

Focus Groups:

  • Many topics are not top of mind, and it takes other participants in a group to spur thoughts and ideas
  • As a marketer, you think about your category every day – consumers don’t
  • Agreeing and disagreeing are how many decisions are made – with socially-influenced  purchases, it helps to recreate that environment
  • Body language, vocal tones and level of excitement speak volumes
  • Others’ ideas act as concentrators – you don’t get as many words per person as in an IDI, but you may get more expanse of opinion because each person spurs the others’ ideas, so reactions help to clarify thoughts

Individuals May Go Deeper

Individual Depth Interviews (IDIs or One on Ones):

  • Great when the decision is thoughtful and/or individual
  • You can bond with the participant around personal feelings
  • Can go deep into the why behind the what
  • Great for website usability testing because many online decisions are individual and time consuming
  • Don’t have as much social or group norming behavior
  • Get more words per person – they get to talk much of the time
  • Requires a participant who likes to talk

Online Qualitative Increasingly Comfortable

Online Qualitative:

  • Online techniques are great for topics that are private because they give the participant space and a computer to hide behind
  • Websites can be used by the participant where and when they would normally use them
  • Time is flexible and participation can be done at a time that works best for the participant
  • Younger participants may feel more comfortable online
  • Provides a convenient way to include widely geographically dispersed participants with no travel

Photo by Flickr User (orangejack)

BuyerSynthesis can help you plan a research process to point you toward better buyer decisions.  BuyerSynthesis.  The buy-whys™ marketing research company.

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