Qualitative Research: Full Understanding Takes More Than Numbers

Qualitative research: The other pillar of market research

Quantitative research, as the name implies, seeks information from the quantifiable data available about a population. Things like market size, demographics, and user preferences are effectively analyzed using quantitative research results, and this guides the business decisions of intelligent organizations.

But what about more subjective information? What about context? What about personal meaning, and how people describe and define their experiences?

Qualitative research is the way marketing professionals seek the answers to these questions. When the researcher seeks data that are not countable, or that are impossible to convey when responses are limited to multiple-choice or yes-no, qualitative research techniques are invaluable. Qualitative research provides valuable data for use in the design of a product—including data about user needs, behavior patterns, and use cases.

In other words, qualitative research includes any research that does not involve statistics or other quantifiable techniques. The goal is a deep and nuanced understanding of subjects’ attitudes that can be applied to the business. What’s more, qualitative input can guide quantitative research. With a clear understanding of the behaviors, desires, emotions, and opinions of your subjects, you can ask better quantifiable questions, leading to a more precise response and clearer information to drive your business development.

The strength of qualitative research is its ability to provide complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given topic or issue. It provides information about the “human” side of an issue, or the often contradictory behaviors, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships of individuals. Qualitative methods are also effective in identifying intangible factors, such as social norms, socioeconomic status, gender roles, ethnicity, and religion, whose role in the research issue may not be readily apparent.

The three most common qualitative methods of data collection are participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus groups. Each method is particularly suited for obtaining a specific type of data.

How our qualitative research benefits our clients

Our clients find that our attention to the nuances of the healthcare and medical-device market and our knowledge of its inner workings is what makes us stand out from the rest. This is one of the prime benefits our customers have discovered: we use our qualitative understanding to drive the quantifiable research, paving a clear path forward.

When California-based medical instrument designer and manufacturer CAVU Medical was seeking inroads into the weight-loss surgery market, President and CEO Lilip Lau looked to Grey Matter. Grey Matter designed a discussion guide and conducted a series of in-depth interviews with leading bariatric surgeons, as part of a qualitative research project, to help uncover the key barriers to adoption of a new product in a competitive category.

“We have found Grey Matter Marketing to be astute and deep in their understanding of the nuances and complexities of specific medical device markets,” said Mr. Lau. “Because of their foundation of real experience in the medical technology industry, they offer usable ideas, advice and suggestions — but without a lot of esoteric fluff.”

The unique focus of qualitative research

In general, qualitative research, rather than a statistical analysis, is when researchers identify trends in the survey data – multiple participants voicing similar opinions, the more the better. These trends may be thought of as questions or challenges posed by the group you’re targeting – and how your business responds with product development and marketing strategies can affect client attraction, retention, and spend.

As we’ve said before, metrics are crucially important to everything we do. You get the best metrics when you understand well what you’re measuring.  At Grey Matter Marketing, we believe that when building your business and brand, the first step in finding answers is figuring out the best questions to ask.

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