Whether you are a small business, a marketing agency or a researcher - this article is focused on the methodologies and best practices required to conduct qualitative research. Even if you are experienced in market research or research methods in general, it's always useful to have a read on how qualitative methods are developing - after all, this is now a tech-driven industry where the landscape is continuously developing.
When conducting market research, always start with a piece of paper and examine what it is that your market research is hoping to discover or answer. Mindmap all of your ideas and troubleshoot with colleagues and key stakeholders - ascertaining what you want your research to achieve in the first step in creating a research project. From this point, you'll start to see patterns emerge and you can start to write a research plan or strategy.
Action Research overview
Action research can be applied to market research as the initiator can design and tailor a proposal to meet the needs of both themselves and the subjects that they will be researching. McNiff (2004:14) states that it is a form of research that can be undertaken by people in any context, regardless of their status or position.
Action research is an enquiry that is carried out in order to understand, evaluate and then change, in order to improve a product or practice.
How should I structure my qualitative research?
Structuring your qualitative research will result in more effective outcomes. Always start with writing down a list of aims or objectives which you can then structure into a plan - whether you are after key marketing messages or discovering new approaches via a focus group or depth interviews.
Once you have established some key research objectives you can get to work with structuring your approach - there are different ways in which you could approach this as every research project has different aims and objectives. As a rough plan you could consider the following when writing a research report:
Title - What is the title or question that you are seeking to answer i.e What are the effects of Brexit on our key customer group
Introduction - In your introduction, you will state the purpose of your research and justify what you are wanting your research to discover?
Research Methods - In this section you will outline what qualitative and quantitative research methods you are going to use.
Results/ Insights - Interpreting your research methods from your respondents will be shown in this section. Analyse both your qualitative research methods and quantitative research data.
Key action points and summary - The insight from the research you conducted should provide a number of action points.
Market research to the untrained can appear like a daunting task - whether you are working with a brand, trying to attract more customers or seeking to improve company culture, there is a lot at stake. However, do not be put off as can deploy a wide range of qualitative research methods that you can that'll provide you with great insight when creating a campaign.
Traditionally a group of individuals will gather in a room to discuss topics with a moderator present. However, new tech developments have enabled these sessions to be conducted remotely - this is part was due to lockdown events of 2020/21 - and one of the strengths is that when focus groups are carried out within a research platform, the discussions are recorded and can be transcribed quickly so that the moderator can focus on the group, rather than taking notes or spending hours re-watching.
Sentiment analysis is another development that has meant that moving focus groups onto a digital platform provides you with faster, qualitative insight (more on this further down...)
Interviews are a staple process in marketing research and are one of several techniques that garner high-quality data from discussion with consumers. The qualitative method of the interview will provide you with large amounts of content for analysis.
Again, similar to Focus groups, if you perform the interview within a dedicated platform, you can speed up your examination and analysis as cutting edge AI is able to transcribe and perform sentiment analysis at the click of a button.
When you hear the word questionnaire your mind instantly goes to quantitative rather than qualitative data. As far as research goes they are probably the most common type as you can target a wide range of responses and feedback from a simple survey. But perceptions of questionnaires being just a form of quantitative research need to be re-thought.
Using an online platform enables you to ask bigger questions that harness the thoughts and feelings of the participant - whether you are wanting to ask open-ended questions and gauge opinions around something particular, or just want to research qualitative insights on a new product, modern software platforms have the ability to collect this data and interpret what the consumer wants and needs.
Video in market research
Video is an industry game-changer - it has been ticking over in the background but is now frequently used for qualitative market research. Why? Because you receive qualitative data, in real-time that can be analysed alongside traditional market research.
The qualitative market is growing as marketing is starting to understand that the deployment of video can be extremely powerful to business, customers and industry sectors; but why should we use video and how can it provide insights and feedback in a way that traditional market research operates?
The first thing to note is that it is not just in market research where we have seen a shift in video - it's culturally. Smartphones have ensured that everyone has the power to communicate via video and Forbes have stated that by 2022, video will account for 82% of all consumer traffic on the web.
App Annie writes that on average, smartphone users spend 3.5 hours a day on their phones and this is why users are now so accustomed to everything being completed in the palm of their hands.
How can video assist my product or service?
Video and qualitative market research go hand in hand - there is a wide range of reasons for your market research project to include video, these are our top 5.
when we think of qualitative research we consider focus groups as a staple part of the process. However, this would include a moderator who asks questions and take notes and later transcribe.
The beauty with video is that any research platform of value should offer transcription services saving you time (and money) to focus on the analysis. Also, to state the obvious, it's quicker to read a transcript than it is to watch a 45-minute focus group recording.
this is where things get really fun; using AI, qualitative market research can perform a wide range of tasks so that you do not have to. Once users or moderators have uploaded video content, the software will scan the transcription for emotions, feelings, positives, negatives and at the click of a button, it'll highlight it for you.
Due to the way in which transcription works, AI can translate into numerous different languages from around the globe enabling you to create research projects outside of your own country. This opens up new markets and bigger samples enabling companies such as marketing agencies to branch out.
Due to the advances in camera technology in smartphones, tablets and computers; qualitative research is gaining high-quality content from its participants. This means that if participants agree, you can then use the content for internal or external marketing purposes.
Don't just see your campaign as a means to collect high-quality insight, consider the potential to gather marketing content that could be posted to external sources such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook as well internal functions like brand meetings or product launches.
Is quantitative research still valid?
With all the advances in qualitative research and the wealth of insight that it brings, it asks the question 'does quantitative research still have a part to play?' The simple answer is yes, it still has a huge part to play - the two go hand in hand.
When launching a market research campaign step one is often assembling a sample and a quantitative approach is a great method in which to do this - remember, start large and reduce.
Getting the balance
With all things research, our methodology when designing a qualitative market research project - or indeed any qualitative research campaign, will have a massive effect on the outcomes. Ensuring that you are flexible and adaptable will be key as well as interpreting insight and feedback.
Partner with a qualitative research company that understands what it is you are wanting to discover; any company that you collaborate with should be able to deploy different research techniques, help with decision making and design a campaign that results in qualitative data and feedback.
Qualitative research will always provide you with insight so when planning your campaign, factor in time to interpret your findings and be rigorous when writing conclusions. Remember qualitative research is an ongoing process - meet with internal stakeholders, be adaptable and follow the data.
Please get in contact if you are wanting advice or information on how to launch a qualitative research campaign.