At GutCheck, we often get a lot of questions about real-world research design, especially when it comes to mixed methodology studies that combine qualitative and quantitative research. How can these studies be designed to really get to the heart of a question or problem so that it can affect real outcomes in your business?
We recently completed a consumer technology study that used both qualitative and quantitative research to determine consumer habits when shopping for electronic devices and, in turn, how to optimize the customer journey. We commonly conduct these types of studies and share the results with our readers, but in this case, we wanted to give you a closer look into the “guts” of the operation so you can understand how our research design impacts real business decisions and learn some best practices for working with your research partner.
To quickly review, qualitative research seeks to answer the why, while quantitative research is numbers-driven, seeking to answer the who, what, when, or how. Combined together, these research methods can help you understand your topic or audience in a much more comprehensive way than just doing one or the other.
Here’s how we set up our mixed methodology study:
Step 1. Define the objective(s)
Your objective starts with the central question you want to ask, or the problem you’re trying to solve—in other words, what are you trying to get out of your study when it’s all said and done?
For this particular study, we started with this key question: What are current consumer shopping habits for electronic devices (specifically smart TVs, wearables, and tablets) and how can companies optimize the shopping and consumer journey for these types of products?
Step 2. Establish objectives by research method
The next step is to refine your overarching question to the objectives you want to achieve during both phases of research. For our study, we came up with high-level objectives for both the qualitative and quantitative phases of research as such:
- Explore consumers’ pre-shopping journey
- Uncover shopping behaviors and decision-making criteria for electronic devices
- Understand opportunities for improvement to the shopping journey
- Understand usage and shopping behaviors across categories
- Identify important features, benefits, and purchase considerations
- Quantify overall satisfaction with the shopping experience and areas of opportunity to improve the shopping experience
Step 3. Find and segment your audience
Your research partner should play a significant role in this step by helping you recruit the appropriate audience to talk to, with enough size and scope to generate reliable insights.
We segmented the audience for our study by device—smart TV (100), wearables (101), and tablets (101)—for a total sample size of 302. Each segment was evenly split between men and women in the 18 to 65 age range. The respondents also must have purchased one of the devices within the past six months in order to participate.
Step 4. Determine the order of the research methods
Figuring out the order of the research methods is next. Using qualitative research as a follow-up to quantitative helps provide much-needed context around why certain numbers come out the way they do. Or, if you’re starting out with a big unknown and are unsure about expected outcomes, beginning with qualitative research can help you come up with specific, relevant questions to ask in a follow-up quantitative phase. Note that the order of the research methods can flip-flop depending on your initial objectives and needs.
Also, sometimes there’s an assumption that qualitative and quantitative research has to be conducted concurrently or with one phase immediately following the other (also known as a series approach).
Though both approaches are beneficial in their own ways, the best way to look at it is that whatever findings from one phase should be used to inform, or be iterated on in the next, even if there’s a period of time between phases. In other words, being able to connect the data from one phase to the next is an important consideration in mixed methodology and hybrid research studies.
In our study, we began with the qualitative phase. This allowed us to dive deep into the attitudes and behaviors involved in the purchasing journey for consumer tech devices. These insights then guided our decision on which questions to highlight in the quantitative phase, helping validate the magnitude of the findings from the qualitative phase.
Step 5. Conduct the research
Once you’ve determined the order of your research, all that’s left is to get it underway. There are two best practices to keep in mind here. The first is to ensure to conduct both your qualitative and quantitative research with the same research partner or vendor, and the second is to research with the same types of audiences in both phases. Following these guidelines will help you achieve quality, consistent insights that can be carried all the way through from beginning to end.
Both phases of research in our study were conducted online with the same audience—first with 10-minute surveys (quantitative), then with a moderated session of respondents answering open-ended questions and follow-ups (qualitative) to create dynamic discussion and interaction.
By designing our mixed methodology research in the way that we did, we were able to collect detailed information that combined concrete numbers and data with much more nuanced feelings and motivations. We were then able to form a connected and comprehensive picture that answered our initial key question. A mixed methodology approach like this will typically lead to much more accurate and prescriptive insights and, in turn, better business outcomes.
To learn more about the mixed methodology we used and the results from our consumer technology journey exploration study, download the full research report here.