Learning to Maximize your Qualitative Research Results

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein

As a Math major, I was taught that numbers can explain everything in life. The truth of the matter is, while numbers can explain some things, they can’t always explain the thought process, emotionality, or irrationality of a consumer. Qualitative research explains the WHY behind the numbers, giving context for and bringing to life otherwise one-dimensional data.

The hardest part of conducting qualitative research is understanding how to interpret the results and/or how the results should impact your business decisions. The key findings in a report create the lens that should be used to read through the remainder of the research. The relationship between the questions and the consumer stories that unravel throughout the study are interconnected and culminate into the key findings. Keeping the key findings in mind while reading through the research helps you identify the main appeal, frustrations, and/or opportunities.

The Story Behind the Data

The story aspect of qualitative research allows the data to come to life and transcend beyond the immediate results. For instance, consider hearing a data point that females, aged 25-40, that make less than $20,000 a year, with kids under the age of 10 prefer Product A over Product B. What does that mean in terms of your company? How should you change your marketing to reflect that data point? Does it make sense to even change your marketing? The real question is, “Why do they prefer Product A over Product B?” Now, let’s add qualitative data into the mix.

Imagine hearing about a single mother named Jane who is working two jobs to provide for her three year old girl and five year old boy. She explains that her biggest struggle is making healthy meals in 30 minutes or less. Hearing her story allows you to connect to her struggle and understand her motivations. Jane prefers Product A because it takes 20 minutes to cook and comes with all of the healthy ingredients included. Product B takes 45 minutes and requires Jane to purchase fresh produce. This level of knowledge reveals a great deal more about why she prefers Product A over Product B.

Once you are engaged in actual consumer stories, imagining how the business decisions you make will impact your consumers becomes easier and clearer. You begin to think through the research on a deeper level. Once you know the consumers more deeply, you are able to be more creative and innovative in the solutions you come up with. Qualitative research helps you connect to the root of the problem and understand how to solve it better.

Look at the Big Picture

A quick word of caution about qualitative research – one of the biggest mistakes clients make when they read through reports is to take the quote from one respondent to be the ultimate truth. Quotes are included in reports to add color, explain further, and provide examples. They are not meant to serve as an end all be all and should be looked at in entirety with the research, not individually.

As Einstein stated, some of the most important information is often found outside of numbers. Qualitative research allows you to enter into the consumer’s mind, opening avenues for understanding, innovation, and growth.

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