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How to do market research? Phase 5: qualitative techniques

How to do market research? Discover today the fifth phase of our 7-step market research methodology.
This episode is dedicated to qualitative market research methods. In our previous episodes (read them here: episodes 1, 2, 3, 4) we dealt with the preliminary phases of market research :

Read Step 5 of our Market Research method

Once you’ve studied the market as a whole it’s time to understand those who makes the market: the customers in priority but also all other stakeholders. We’ll mainly use two families of market research techniques for that : qualitative and quantitative (see next episode).

Qualitative market research : often neglected, yet instrumental

Qualitative market research is difficult and for that reason is often neglected. Its aims is to “qualify” a situation, to understand its underlying mechanism. It does NOT aim at quantifying this problem (this is done through surveys for example).
For that reason the samples are necessarily smaller but the analysis analysis afterwards should be deeper.

There are many different qualitative techniques

Here are a some examples of qualitative techniques that are commonly used :

  • face-to-face interviews
  • telephone or Skype interviews
  • focus groups
  • participatory and non-participatory observations
  • analysis of diaries, blogs, …
  • collages
  • analysis of video recordings, vlogs, …

Qualitative market research is actually pretty old. The Chicago school at the end of the 19th century gave it an academic Some techniques have emerged more recently that leverage technology, like for instance analysis of video or audio diaries.

Examples of qualitative market research use cases

It is of course impossible to give you an exhaustive overview of all situations where qualitative techniques can be used. But it’s important that you understand when and for which aim you should use it.

Here’s our golden rule : use qualitative market research techniques whenever you need to explore behaviors that a customer may NOT be conscious about.

Use case 1: understanding customer experience in a brick-and-mortar store

Customers navigate through brick-and-mortars stores without being conscious of all the cues that may influence their behaviors. It can be olfactory or visual cues of course, but more simply it’s also the very layout of the store that influences one’s behavior.
To study and understand in-store customers you can do video-based observations, retrace in-store flows and end up with very interesting hypotheses on what shapes behaviors.

Use case 2: developing a breakthrough innovation

Developing a breakthrough innovation requires that customers’ pains and usages be very well understood. You may want to start with individual in-depth interviews to understand your prospective customers better before moving to focus groups with lead users.
Very innovativ products (for instance at Hilti) have been developed using the lead users techniques popularized by Eric von Hippel.

Use case 3: assessing a new packaging or a variant of an existing product

In the case of a new packaging or a variant of an existing product, focus groups are well indicated. They allow sharing different opinions and nurturing a constructive dialogue between prospective customers. This cross-polinization between focus groups participants is important to generate solutions in case of problems.

Would like to get advised on the most adapted qualitative market research method for your own situation? Drop us a line or leave a comment on Facebook, Twitter or at the bottom of this page. We’ll be happy to answer free of charge.

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Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for explaining that focus groups are a great avenue to share ideas and opinions which facilitates dialogue between a company and its customers. I personally like the idea of being part of a conversation on a company’s decision-making about their products, especially if I am a patron. Maybe businesses should really invest in market researches so they can find out what their customers think about their product or service.

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