Using Quantitative Research with Qualitative in Today’s World

Today, we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic. Life as we know it is canceled. With the current advice from the CDC to practice social distancing and avoid crowds or gatherings of more than 10, our behaviors and needs are shifting as we navigate our new “normal”. 

The market research industry is no exception – we’re feeling that impact, including adjustments we need to make to how we conduct research. With in-person qualitative methods such as focus groups and intercept studies taking a break, it’s the perfect time to assess how online surveys can be used to supplement and conduct qualitative research.

While some of these in-person methods could be replaced by emerging online-based qualitative methods, now is a great time to explore where a hybrid research approach could make sense. Research doesn’t have to take an all or nothing approach. In reality, a blend of the two could be your secret sauce that yields the most comprehensive results. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through how you can add both qualitative and quantitative methods to your research arsenal, especially at a time when your qualitative options may be limited.

Incorporating qual in quant

While aytm is primarily a quantitative technology platform, we do offer some qualitative question types for times when you need more open-ended feedback. In addition to our standard open-ended text box, we offer image and video response questions.

With video response, you can set up your primer and include talking points for the respondent to progress through, like a mini discussion guide. This question can be highly valuable in collecting deeper, more contextual qualitative feedback that otherwise could be missed by a closed-end question.

Also, questions like Heatmaps — while possible to quantify — could be argued are a type of qualitative data. While you can group responses into more quant-like buckets, respondents are literally pinpointing what piques their interest or they find off-putting, and allows them to explain why via comment text box. 

There are various ways to inject qual elements into quantitative research. 

Using quant for validation

Recently, a health technology company came to us looking for a quantitative partner that could fit seamlessly into their newly adopted lean startup approach as it related to conducting research for an agile and iterative way of building and refining their offerings based on customer feedback and needs. 

They were conducting qualitative research with various specialized medical professionals but needed a way to step back and validate ideas and needs among broader audiences, such as the consumers who would be on the receiving end of their offerings. And they needed to do it in a way that didn’t take weeks like a typically does with a traditional quant provider. 

With aytm, they were able to take the key step of testing ideas and measuring needs efficiently and effectively with quant research. In this case, the decision about if and when to use qual and quant was driven by the research objective, not by time or budget constraints. 

The ability to bounce back and forth as needed was the key to their success. This client was able to run a survey to consumers overnight and take not just qual findings but also quant-backed data into their meeting with leadership the next afternoon.

How quant and qual support each other

It’s essential to keep a symbiotic relationship between quant and qual. The world is ever-changing. We’re seeing large-scale shifts right now that no research conducted three months ago could have forecasted. Being able to move quickly in both types of research and taking an iterative approach when it makes sense is crucial.

I once heard a great talk at a conference about an in-person follow along done with an individual in Asia with regards to how they were doing their laundry. The insights were really powerful and moving, but I was surprised when the talk abruptly ended with ‘So we revamped our line of products because of this experience.’ I couldn’t help but to immediately wonder whether they conducted a total product overhaul based on findings from one person’s journey. 

The traditional qual/quant study to validate and quantify results has stood the test of time for a reason. Being able to take a deep dive with consumers in a qualitative manner is so useful and should possibly be considered a bit more by hardcore quantitative researchers. That said, having a larger sample size yielding robust numbers behind key takeaways from qual is equally useful and important.

A quantitative study with a much larger and more stable sample size provides further credibility to qualitative findings.

How aytm Supports Qual

There are a few ways aytm can support your qualitative research needs.

Recruitment

Have a pool of potential participants you’re looking to recruit for IDIs, diary or journal studies, etc.? Set up and launch an AYTM list survey to your own respondents to collect key preliminary information as it relates to your larger qualitative study to ensure you’re recruiting the right people and the right mix of people. There’s nothing worse than diving into interviews only to immediately hear a person doesn’t shop in your category or realizing most participants represent only one of three critical profiles to explore.

Recently we’ve also seen people use quant as a recruiting tool for qual, where they have measured the “what” but want to dive deeper into the “why”. In cases like this, it’s critical to be very transparent with respondents, letting them know that the research project could extend beyond the survey that they’re taking. Be respectful of their time by offering an additional incentive and let them choose whether they’re willing to open to participating further. 

Pro Tip: In a recent webinar hosted by L&E Research, I discussed the topic of using quant sample and study as means for recruiting participants for qual research with Nihal Advani, Founder and CEO of QualSights, and Renee Wyckoff, Research Design Engineer for L&E. As quant and qual measure different types of data in different ways, typical respondents of one research type may have a tough time being thrust into another. As quant respondents typically aren’t prompted to provide deep detail and insight into behaviors, preferences, and such, you may find it takes more work to extract deeper “why” insights out of them in a qual study. A great tip shared by Nihal Advani was, when using this method, take advantage of video questions or other type of more qualitative question within the quant recruitment study to understand how engaged a person is and if they would make, for instance, a good in-depth interview before moving forward with them in a qual study. 

The hidden quant within qual

During a qual study, sometimes you need to collect quantitative feedback from participants. For instance, you might want to collect ratings on performance of a product that was tested as part of an In Home Usage Test (IHUT). You can leverage a traditional online quant survey to collect that data as a part of a bigger qualitative study.

There’s a place for both quantitative and qualitative research methods in every researcher’s toolbox. Don’t be afraid of using both or mixing modes. Make sure that you understand not just the why and how but also to quantify and understand prioritization with a more robust sample. 

We don’t know how long the disruption caused by the Coronavirus will last. Pausing your research to wait out the storm isn’t the best solution. The world is changing and no one knows how long this “new” normal may last, or what lasting effects there will be in consumer behavior. Getting a pulse on these changes will keep you ahead of the curve, and your competitors. So instead of stopping, pivot and embrace. Find new ways to get the insights you need to move forward with your research objectives, including leaning on quantitative methods to support your qualitative studies.

Looking to support your qualitative efforts with quantitative, or just looking for an advanced DIY consumer insights platform to add to your toolbox? Contact us. We can help.