Market Researchers Resources The 2018 Guide to Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative Market Research FAQ

What is Qualitative research?

Qualitative research is used to investigate the why and how of human behavior; to explore the attitudes, feelings and behaviors of a targeted group of people on a particular topic.   Small, focused samples are the norm in qualitative research, and methods include individual interviews and focus groups (in person, over the phone or online); and ethnographic market research, where researchers engage with the respondent wherever a client’s product or service is used or sold (in-home, in-store, on-line, on-site, etc.)

What is the difference between Qualitative research and Quantitative research?

Qualitative research is used for exploration–to generate hypotheses, look for unmet needs, better understand a category, target group, or industry.   Qualitative research results are not statistically projectable because of the open-ended questions that are asked and the small sample sizes that are used.

Quantitative research is used to answer how many, where, and when questions, among a large, statistically representative sample.   Often, qualitative research precedes quantitative research to help inform the questions that are asked, and to develop the hypotheses that quantitative research will test.

What is Ethnographic Market Research?

When used as a qualitative research method, ethnographic market research (also referred to as observational qualitative research or in-situ research) is the study of consumer behavior in context.   Rather than simply asking someone to self-report their purchase behaviors, for example, a skilled qualitative research consultant will visit their home and see what is in the pantry/closet/garage, accompany the subject on a shopping trip to observe actual purchase behaviors, and question the subject about them after a purchase has been completed.   Ethnographic market research is particularly useful in informing marketers’ and product developers’ understanding of the small, often unstated details that will help them increase the probability of new product success and/or reduce the probability of failure.

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