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How To Conduct Qualitative Market Research That Helps You Compete Globally

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How To Conduct Qualitative Market Research That Helps You Compete Globally
by christopherjanb

It’s the old research question (no, not the one about the chicken and the egg) – which is more helpful: quantitative research or qualitative research? Quantitative research is based in hard facts and figures – surveys, analysis of trends, statistical results. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is a much broader field of study that collects data through more unstructured methods.

It falls squarely in the realm of ethnographers and anthropologists, those researchers who conduct field studies, observe behaviors and research documents to understand cultural mores and motivations, and understand reasons for behavior. They focus less on the details of what happened and instead try to understand why something happened.

This article will help marketers who want to learn more about competing successfully in a global marketplace by:

Learning how to truly understand prospects and customers as people, not just numbers or trends.
Showing the benefits of obtaining a cultural understanding.
Providing a step-by-step process for conducting qualitative research.
Applying qualitative insights to marketing decisions.
For years business decision-makers and marketers have followed the siren call of quantitative research, but these days more and more are being drawn to the qualitative side of the equation. With the global economy, quickly-evolving demographics, and the digital world changing our communication and buying patterns, savvy marketers are rapidly learning how to gather useful insights that will help guide their decision-making.

A 5 Step Plan for Marketers Conducting Qualitative Research
To put the same “oomph” behind qualitative research results, marketers will need to design their research with the same rigorous standards associated with quantitative research. These five steps should serve as a helpful guideline:

Define an Area of Inquiry: As with quantitative research, you need to start with a description of what you are attempting to study, but in qualitative research these questions tend to be more focused around the “why” of a particular behavior. Why do consumers in the east prefer one brand of soda more than those in the west? What drives people of certain cultural heritages to make specific purchasing decisions? You are looking for information that will help refine your marketing strategies.
Determine a Method of Study: Ascertain how you are going to go about collecting this information. Perhaps it will be necessary to bring in an anthropologist or ethnographer to assist in this stage of the inquiry. Think about how you are going to gather data, who you will need to interview, where these interviews should take place, whether they should be in individual or group sessions, and how you are going to document results.
Gather Input: Collect data based on the method of study identified. Perhaps this stage will consist of simple observation, or it could require an inter-generational interview session to obtain cultural perspectives. If a group being studied is large enough, it may necessitate having an ethnographer immersed in the culture for a specific length of time to obtain a deeper understanding of cultural norms and influences. You are trying to identify patterns of behavior, and understand why this specific individual or group behaves in that manner.
Generate Insights: Assess the data that has been collected with both a quantitative and qualitative approach. Try to assign numerical values where appropriate, but be open to the broader observations and trends that have been uncovered. Many times, a narrative analysis or content analysis is helpful in narrowing down results. Look for the cultural insights that cause you to stop and say, “Aha, so that’s why this group isn’t responding to our current marketing efforts.” When possible, try to validate these findings in some other way.
Make Marketing Decisions: In today’s marketing world, we are moving away from the constraints of mass marketing and focusing on a more personalized approach. Qualitative research will assist in this process by identifying what is important to specific groups, so marketing strategies can be developed to specifically communicate and engage with them.
In this day and age, marketers need all the information they can get about the “why” and “how” of making a purchasing decision. Consumer emotions, beliefs, cultural norms and opinions form the driving force in their buying decisions.

Qualitative and quantitative research, when used together, will give marketers the opportunity to better understand the complex nature of the buying process. It may take a bit more interpretation, but the results of a properly conceived and implemented qualitative research study should be enough to provide valuable insights which drive marketing decisions that make sense.

photo credit: fallentomato via photopin cc

Author information

Jure Klepic
Jure Klepic is Digital Strategist who is willing to say what others leave unspoken.
He leads social media and marketing adoptions for global brands and continues to drive change and spearhead innovation. Throughout his career he worked with global brands from USA to Asia.

Jure is recognized business and marketing thought leader, he is a speaker and a regular contributor to Huffington Post.

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