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The following post was co-written with Zach Shaw, Panel Associate at RMS

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What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research is a non-numerical method used to discover and understand consumer behavior, beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and interactions. Qualitative data is often implemented during the exploratory phase of the research, using unstructured or semi structured techniques to facilitate an open dialogue with the participant(s). Giving the participant more freedom in their response allows them to provide more detail than can be gathered through closed-ended quantitative research. Instead of looking for statistical comparisons, qualitative researchers will evaluate the gathered data to identify trends given by the recipients, and implement solutions.

Types of Qualitative Research:

  • Focus Groups – A focus group includes a small number of people (often 10 or less) brought together to participate in a guided discussion by a moderator. The discussion focuses on specific products, topics, or services, and follows a pre-determined focus group moderator’s guide. The moderator’s guide outlines the questions to be covered, as well as the topics for which the moderator should expect to probe deeper for additional explanation.
  • Intercept Surveys –An intercept survey is a very brief, in-person interview with a participant and an interviewer. For example, the interviewer might approach someone leaving a retail store and ask them a few questions about their experience.
  • In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) –IDIs often take the form of a one-on-one discussion between an interviewer and participant. The interviewer typically follows a semi-structured interview guide, developed prior to the conversation, to direct the discussion. It is common for IDIs to be completed in-person, over the phone, or via the web.
  • Mystery Shopping – Mystery shopping is used to measure the quality of a service, compliance with regulations, or to gather specific information about products and services. This method allows the client to obtain competitive information without being involved in the process. Mystery shoppers often gather this information through telephone calls or by visiting the store and acting as a customer.

Why do Qualitative research?

Qualitative research can be used at any phase of research, but is most commonly done as a first or last step in the research cycle. It can be very valuable when developing new products or marketing initiatives that are looking to gauge consumer perceptions. Qualitative data allows the researcher to have in-depth discussions with participants and allows the researcher to gather more detailed information on consumer needs, behaviors, desires, routines, and a range of other information that companies use for designing products and services. The depth of qualitative research allows the researcher to uncover contextual details that may be overlooked in quantitative research.

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research looks for patterns in numeric data and is generally better for confirming and clarifying a research hypothesis. Applying statistical tests to numerical data provides a better understanding of trends, allowing the researcher to make more informed statements about the results. RMS customizes each questionnaire to the needs of the client, but many of the questionnaires follow a structured outline and are primarily made up of closed-ended questions with provided response options for the participant to choose from. This structured approach to research is different than the more conversational approach used in qualitative research.

Types of Quantitative research:

  • Mail/Paper Surveys – A mail or paper survey is a questionnaire that is completed by the participant on a hard copy rather than in digital form. These types of surveys can either be distributed via postal mail or given to the recipient in person to complete. Mail or paper surveys are a great option for populations which may not have easy access to a computer or the internet, but are known for often having a lower response rate than other types of quantitative research.
  • Mixed Mode – Mixed mode research involves more than one type of data collection. For example, data may be collected with a combination of research methods to reach the desired populations. Phone surveys could be used to collect data from an older population who is more likely to have a landline; online surveys may be distributed to those younger than the population receiving the phone surveys, and paper surveys would be used to collect data from the subset of the population who does not have immediate access to a phone or the internet. A mixed-mode approach allows the researcher to ensure data is collected from the target population of interest, with a mode that is most comfortable to that population.
  • Online Surveys – An online survey is a digital version of a questionnaire. Participants may be sent a survey link that is embedded within an email, or they may access it on a social media post, which they can complete online.
  • Telephone Surveys – A telephone survey is completed over the phone. The interviewer takes the participant through the questionnaire question by question.

Why do Quantitative research?

Quantitative research often gathers a larger number of responses, allowing the researcher to make more reliable assumptions regarding the resulting data. Quantitative research questions can be used to measure consumer feelings, satisfaction, and other factors in a structured form, giving the recipient limited response options.  This quantifiable approach to research is a great option when a client has a sense of what their target audience thinks, feels, or expects, but would like to further test their assumptions.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com

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