Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

What Are They? When and How Do You Use Them in Marketing? 

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Conducting both qualitative and quantitative research is necessary for understanding your customers. Qualitative research focuses on the feelings, opinions, and descriptive phrases of your customers (subjective qualities). Quantitative research defines the numbers and measurements required for success (objective quantities). Within the Suzy™ platform, you can conduct both qualitative and Quant research.

To understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, imagine you want to know what it’s like to be rich. You’ll need to complete two types of research:

  1. Qualitative: How do people feel when they’re rich? How do they think they will feel? How do people talk about being rich?

  2. Quantitative: How much money does it take to be rich? How much money do people think it takes? What can you buy when you’re rich?

 As a business owner or product developer, it’s important to understand both qualitative and quantitative research. So let’s explore the when, how and why of using both.

Qualitative Market Research

Qualitative market research shows on a feeling level:

  1. What customers look for and reject

  2. How they distinguish between what they look for and reject

  3. Language they use to describe what they look for and reject

To illustrate this concept better, we need to get into a qualitative frame of mind. So, let’s imagine what it’s like to be in the forest:

Notice the green of the trees.

Take a deep breath of fresh air.

Smell the evergreen trees and vegetation.

Feel the gentle breeze against your skin.

Hear the leaves rustling in the wind.

Hear the birds chirping in the distance.

Take another breath.


When you spend time in nature, the number of trees, the wind speed, and the decibel volume of the singing birds don’t matter. You go to the forest because of how it makes you feel.

That’s why the most powerful products and marketing speak to our feelings. It’s also why market researchers like to start with qualitative research – to get to know their customers as people, on the feeling level.

Now let’s explore qualitative research on a more practical level. 

How Qualitative Research Works

Since qualitative research generally focuses on the feeling experience, it involves subjective opinions. Therefore, the quantitative researcher will ask questions to customers to understand their feelings. For example, if you’re building “The Ideal Forest Experience,” qualitative research questions might include:

Why do people enjoy going to forests?

How do people feel when they’re happy in forests?

What kinds of experiences do people look for in forests?

How do people describe forest experiences?

What causes people to avoid going to the forest?

How do people distinguish between good and bad forests?

How do people talk about forests they like and don’t like?

Qualitative research also identifies the words, adjectives, language, and phrases your customers use to talk about products or services in the industry. Understanding this helps you communicate in a way that connects with your audience when selling and marketing. 

In this respect, you’ll want to research:

What words or phrases do your customers use? For example, if your customers are baby boomers, they’ll use different language than millennials. 

How do your customers describe the products or experiences they like and dislike? Perhaps there’s a buzz-word that customers use to describe “The Ideal Forest Experience.” You might want to use this word when marketing your product.

Since qualitative research collects the feelings and language of customers, it’s common for qualitative interview forms to permit free-written responses – so the participants can answer with their own words and phrasing. 

Professional Tips on Qualitative Research

The questions we ask during qualitative research affect the answers we receive -- and the purity and accuracy of the result.

For example, sometimes respondents will simply give you answers you want to hear (instead of the truth).

David Guggenheim, Ph.D. in management information systems, recommends maintaining the stance of the disinterested observer during qualitative research. Guggenheim writes:

When conducting qualitative research, it is crucial to structure your questionnaire carefully, and to embody the notion of disinterested observer … to minimize distorting the subject responses.

Good questions should not make the subject feel defensive. They should be easy to understand. You should also avoid double-barreled questions. These are questions that address multiple topics but allow only one answer.

Quantitative Market Research

In the section above, we learned how qualitative research shows:

  • What customers want and don’t want

  • How customers distinguish between what they want and don’t want

  • The words or phrases they use to describe what they want and don’t want

There’s another thing that qualitative research reveals: exactly what marketers should test in their quantitative research. Quantitative research scientifically measures the subjective, qualitative concepts revealed in your qualitative research. It identifies the exact numbers and quantities that trigger your customers’ “want it” and “don’t want it” responses.

Imagine your qualitative research reveals that “peaceful, calm, and relaxing bird songs” are essential for a “The Ideal Forest Experience.” Although the customers know that they want “peaceful, calm, and relaxing bird songs,” they don’t know the specifics on how to achieve that.

What number of birds achieve a peaceful, calm, and relaxing experience? What number of birds is too little or too much?

What species of birds sing in a peaceful, calm, and relaxing way? What species don’t?

What decibel volume range is correct for a peaceful, calm, and relaxing bird song experience? 

Then, they could ask the test participants if they feel the bird songs are “peaceful, calm, and relaxing.”

In a similar vein, designing a new beverage for a large food and beverage company follows the same process. The beverage designer learns that customers prefer drinks that taste “lemony, sweet and fresh.” Next, he conducts quantitative research to test exactly how much lemony flavor and sweetener a beverage requires for customers to agree that it’s “lemony, sweet and fresh.” After obtaining the answer during the quantitative research phase, the beverage company can satisfy the customers’ taste preference with precision, over and over again! 

Professional Tips on Quantitative Research

Like qualitative research, quantitative research involves interviewing customers with a survey. 

Quantitative questions will ask for black-and-white – quantifiable – responses. Like, “If you went T-shirt shopping, how much money would you spend on a T-shirt? Between $10 and $50 or between $50 and $100?”

To collect accurate data – and carry out successful research – it’s essential to design your quantitative research strategy, and plan your surveys and questions appropriately.

Professional market researchers use a variety of market research tools when collecting information about their future customers. These tools are a necessary part of the market research equation, but most have a serious problem: They’re glacially-slow. By the time the research team finishes a study, it’s not uncommon for the trends to change, and consumers don’t want the product anymore!

That’s where Suzy™ is different. Suzy™ is a market research tool that provides high-speed, real-time consumer insights during both the qualitative and quantitative phases of your research. That way, you can respond to consumer trends immediately, with a tested product that you know your customers will love. 

How Market Research Saves Money and Time

Businesses, R&D teams, and marketers conduct qualitative and quantitative research because it saves them time and money. And ultimately, it boosts their incomes by helping to create and sell products and services customers want.

What not to do

Let’s say your brand team conducts a brainstorming session on “The Ideal Forest Experience.” They think they know what people look for in a forest, but they never ask the customers. The brand team is disconnected from the audience. They’re operating in a bubble. They wrongly assume people want trees under 5 feet tall, when they really want trees over 20 feet tall.

The situation gets worse when the company invests time and money to build a product and marketing around these unverified ideas. 

They never test the “pitch” to see how it sounds to the audience:

  • Will the pitch break through the static of never-ending ads?

  • Will people relate to the product?

  • Will they buy it?

  • Did the company just waste a lot of money and time?

What to do

You should be verifying your product and marketing with market research beforehand. It’s the only way to know the answers to these questions and reduce the chance of a failed product or marketing campaign.

More poignantly, it’s vital to conduct this research fast. Long gone are the days of simply conducting quarterly market research. To survive, you need to have your finger on the pulse of exactly what your customers want right now. Suzy™ puts the voice of your customers (and future customers) right in your pocket, to ensure every decision you make is the right one for your audience.

The combination of qualitative and quantitative research minimizes the risk of wasting time and money on products and marketing that nobody wants. It also helps you communicate and connect with customers using familiar and relatable language when selling them your verified product. 

Suzy Delivers 

Suzy™ delivers on-demand market Insights so you can deliver the products your customers love faster and more effectively. 

Market trends change in a blink of an eye, and so do the wants and wishes of your customers. When clear trends emerge, modern consumers expect the brands they love to respond – immediately – with products and services that reflect these trends. Suzy™ is the ideal consumer insights tool to help companies achieve this kind of immediacy for their customers. 

By using Suzy™ during your qualitative and quantitative research, you’ll get your products and services to market faster – and keep your customers interested like never before.

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Want to learn more? Visit our services page for more information about using Suzy during your market research. 

Meet Suzy

A consumer intelligence platform that helps you gather information on what your potential customers care about, so you can make the right decisions for your business, product, or service.

Suzy™ is a better, faster way to conduct market research at the click of a button – like having a focus group right in your pocket.

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