When are both quantitative and qualitative methods beneficial?

There are times when quantitative research methods get the job done and other times when qualitative is the way to go. But how about combining quantitative and qualitative methods? When does that make sense?

Jason Alleger, consumer insights and strategy at Traeger, said on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” that he often uses a qual-quant-qual approach, which works particularly well when researchers try to uncover customers’ unmet needs.

“It helps because you can cast a wide net and then validate with quant,” he said. “Then you go back to consumers and make sure you’re onto something.”

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Understanding how combining quantitative and qualitative methods can work

Quantitative research provides a high-view, statistical, and data-backed look at an audience or problem. This is great for many situations, such as understanding audience demographics or general sentiment better. However, sometimes you must go beyond the numbers and find more depth. Where quantitative research provides the “what,” qualitative research yields the “why” behind the problem.

Read next: How to determine your company’s why

Quantitative research often uses statistics and provides an excellent jumping-off point for further analysis. But qualitative methods make it possible to get deeper insights and more context than quantitative methods. There are a couple of ways to leverage these methods for new levels of depth.

Use quantitative methods to inform qualitative questions

Quantitative methods can be great for getting a consensus on an issue. This is generally accomplished via closed-ended questions in a survey or poll. Qualitative research allows you to dig deeper and understand the actual quantitative results’ context and story.

For example, you could use an email survey to poll your audience on their first impressions of a proposed product. You could then take those results and develop questions for a qualitative video survey or an open-ended text.

Jason said teams could also use this approach to get initial feedback and ideas, then iterate and show consumers prototypes for additional feedback along the way.

Read next: How to follow the design thinking process to be more relevant to customers

Obtain more context than you can with quantitative methods

Quantitative research is excellent for unearthing all kinds of information, but that info is limited by both the question asked and the quantitative format. Sometimes you need a more open-ended design to get to the heart of the issue.

The questions themselves often limit survey responses. For example, a yes or no question can only give you a yes or no answer.

Qualitative methods, on the other hand, lend themselves to open-ended responses or discussions. This exploratory nature can lead to your audience sharing a great deal, providing you with more context and the discovery of problems you didn’t even know existed.

Read next: Best practices for survey design in research

Answers to text-only open-ended questions can also fall prey to limited responses. This is because they are often short, and the subtleties of tone and body language are absent in responses. You likely get far more context in video surveys, including:

  • facial expressions
  • voice intonations
  • body language

Video feedback can help remedy the text-only issue because people are more willing to share and get their entire story (and then some) out.

Qualitative methods forge stronger relationships

It’s easy for executives and people in non-customer-facing roles to lose sight of the customer or see them more as numbers and less as people. However, qualitative research is typically people-centric, making it easier for executives and others to see your audience as people, not just data sets.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Qualitative research allows you to better connect with your audience and improve future efforts. This is especially true with video feedback. Video feedback gives your audience a chance to tell their story, including nonverbal cues, allowing you to really get a feel for who they are.
  • Qualitative research’s people-centric qualities make it easier for you to build empathy with your audience as well. More empathy creates a better understanding of your audience and their problems. With this empathy and more profound knowledge, you can develop better solutions.
  • Video feedback is also helpful in getting buy-in from the C-suite and those less involved with customers. Video feedback is inherently humanizing. This can significantly affect the C-suite and others who don’t regularly interact with your audience.

Read next: What are actionable insights anyway?

Finding the right mix of quantitative and qualitative methods

Which combination of research methods you use depends on the specific project, timeline, and more.

“When I think of strategic market research, I find it easiest to break it into a few buckets based on the projects’ intent,” said Brian Monschein, Voxpopme’s vice president of research. “Which one you pick and what exact strategies you use depend on the specific project.”

Brian breaks it down into a few options:

  • Continuous research. These projects you do on an ongoing basis throughout the year and they can include copy testing, promotion testing, claims feedback taste tests, and concept testing.
  • Brand tracking. A way to monitor brand health through brand awareness, visitation/visit frequency, and brand perception.
  • Strategic initiatives. Typically larger, more in-depth projects that are done only a few times a year.

Also, keep in mind how human communication evolves. For example, as Rob Fitzpatrick, author of “The Mom Test,” said, video communication was not really a thing for the masses in 2013. But it’s widely accepted now.

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