Let’s look at each of these in turn.
It is a common truism among marketers that consumers (and yes, even businesses) purchase products and services based on emotional attractions (given basic product and service functionality) and then justify their choices with rationality. Qualitative market research is designed to discover the underlying emotional attractions (and aversions). So, while a person may justify the purchase of a specific vehicle based on a combination of features, price and economy (or not), the underlying reasons for purchase may have just as much to do with the cars that are “cool” in the buyer’s circle of friends and peers, what vehicle his/her parents like or dislike and what they drive and don’t, and the vehicle’s positioning in the market–who the manufacturer is working to get to buy a specific model.
Qualitative techniques (such as in-depth interviews, in-home interviews, ethnographic (observational), and focus groups), properly executed, provide an understanding of the emotional side of consumer behavior.
A second use of qualitative market research is to provide feedback from the universe of potential buyers and users on products, services and communications. For example, let’s suppose your company was developing a new toothpaste with unique health properties. Your lab has developed several versions of the product with different textures and graininess and thickness (viscosity). Now your company needs to know which version holds the most promise among consumers. You are looking for a quick go/no go decision here; you are not betting the ranch (that comes later). So you might use qualitative research to recruit potential users of your product (folks attracted to the specific health properties of your new product) to determine whether or not your lab version meets the basic requirements of a product in the toothpaste category. And you might end up doing this several times before arriving at a final formula which would require more rigorous and quantitative market research to test.
Finally, market researchers use qualitative techniques as a quick check (or disaster check) prior to going to market. This is often done with communications (ads, letters, brochures, etc.) to customers or potential customers. You might have a “final draft” of a new statement you want to introduce to your customer base. You might then test the mock statement through qualitatively to ensure that at worst it does not turn off the customers. (And hopefully is an improvement on what they are currently receiving.)
At its most basic, quantitative market research is designed to measure: behavior (how many times a day, week, month do you brush your teeth), perceptions (I believe my city needs a railway as part of its public transportation system; agree strongly, agree somewhat, neither agree nor disagree, disagree somewhat, disagree strongly), attitudes (All liberals/conservatives should be shot, yes/no), and customer satisfaction (On a scale of 1 to 5 where a 1 is completely dissatisfied and a 5 is completely satisfied, what is your level of satisfaction with [X]).
Of course, the market research tutorial observes that it can do much more than simply measure. It also reveals useful links between consumers and products and services. (Such as, 70% of consumers who have purchased a hardcover book in the past month also purchased a book on CD.
Quantitative market research is solidly based on the mathematics of statistics. At least it’s supposed to be. That said, we’ve encountered numerous studies where the number of respondents who completed the survey are insufficient to draw any statistically-valid conclusions about the underlying population.
The most critical aspect of producing valid quantitative market research is the size and representativeness of the persons sampled in the study in comparison to the population that the study purports to represent. Regardless of whatever anyone tells you, if you have not collected a sufficient number of surveys, your results cannot be said to represent the population you are studying. Sorry if we’re sounding a little preachy, but after years of looking at studies that have received considerable press and the findings discussed as fact and then learning that this basic dictum has been violated, we have reason to ringthe bell on this issue. Moreover, we’ve seen businesses skimp on this aspect of market research, usually in the name of saving money, only to find that the research conclusions were faulty. So, don’t save money here; don’t let anyone give you anyfancy sounding explanations why it’s okay to violate this rule in your case. It NEVER is okay. Period.
(Culled from How to Do Market Research .Com)