What is qualitative research?
Qualitative research is a method of collecting data that involves in-depth observation and dialogue with subjects. While quantitative research is focused on statistical data, qualitative research seeks a deeper understanding of a particular problem or topic through longer-term engagement with a sample group.
How qualitative research works
Online surveys might tell us if a target market prefers a blue widget over a red one. Qualitative research aims to tell us why. It often requires one-on-one observation and interactions with subjects over a lengthier period of time than quantitative research requires.
Qualitative research is rooted in observation of, and engagement with, individuals. The individuals are often selected for a qualitative study based on demographics such as race, ethnicity, or income level.
Qualitative research is flexible and offers opportunities for researchers to follow up with subjects and explore unexpected but related issues to a study that might emerge during the research process.
Why qualitative research matters
Qualitative research gives companies and marketers data that can inform new product development and shape how products are marketed and sold to target markets.
Qualitative research gives organizations a broader set of data than can be gathered in a survey, and offers a window into consumer behavior that can influence many different aspect of organizational operations, from internal communications to customer service.
Qualitative research gets deeper into the heads of its subjects and can reveal societal and market trends that quantitative research can't always find. It can help identify what consumer behavior might look like in five or ten years.