A beginners guide to qualitative market research methodologies
Choosing a qualitative market research methodology can be a daunting process, especially if you are organising your first market research project - but it doesn’t have to be.
There are many market research methodologies available, each with their own benefits. Although, your research goals, target audience and budget will have to be considered alongside these benefits when deciding on a market research methodology choice.
We’ve put together a breakdown on the most popular qualitative market research methodologies, to help you decide which one is best suited to your research project.
1) Focus Groups
Focus groups involve a number of participants, normally between 6-10. They facilitate an open discussion and allow moderators to probe for further insights, which can improve your product and service. Although focus groups are a popular choice when it comes to market research, there are a few things that need to be considered when utilising this research method. For example, considering the type of venue where the focus group will be hosted. The choice of venue is usually based on the type of research that is taking place, but as a general rule, the venue you select should be easy to locate and easy for your participants to travel to.
A common venue for this type of qualitative methodology is a market research viewing facility. These facilities are great for focus groups as they enable the client to watch the session too without the participants feeling uneasy due to the use of a one-way mirror at the facility. These viewing facilities also come with full video and sound recording capabilities, which makes transcription a lot easier.
No matter what type of venue you select for your research, it should be private, quiet and free from distractions. This will help to ease your participants into the focus group and ensure that they feel comfortable, hopefully aiding in the depth of their responses. In our experience, we have found that conference rooms at hotels can seem to work well for focus groups, although, it all depends on the budget that you have available to you.
2) Market Research Online Communities
With the advent of digital, market research online communities (MROC) are increasingly popular, particularly for researchers targeting millennials. These online communities are built using intelligent software that enables you to conduct a private community. There are several types of MROC software available, but it must meet your research needs. For example, does your software need to be mobile friendly? Do any security measures need to be put in place? Should the software be an app or via mobile website? These are all things that need to be considered when selecting software for your MROC.
During a market research online community, participants can discuss various topics and tasks on the forums or post videos. Varied discussion is the largest benefit of online research communities. In our experience, we have found that discussion forums work particularly well as a task in an MROC as they facilitate in-depth, interactive discussion among participants in a closed community. We’ve also found that blogging works well as a market research online community task as it enables participants to create digital diaries of their everyday lives including images, videos and text. This helps to gather a detailed in-depth understanding of participants from the information that they upload.
3) Online Focus Groups
While traditional focus groups are one of the most effective ways to gather qualitative market research data, they can sometimes be difficult to facilitate - especially if you know that your target demographic for the research lives in more remote areas or you don’t have the budget to cover flying to do focus groups in all of your target country markets.
This is where online focus groups help researchers. Users are given login details and participants can be interviewed via webcam. You also have a larger pool of participants to choose from, which is particularly useful if you’re conducting research on a global scale or you have a niche audience. In our experience, we have found that a group size of 4 or 5 usually works best for online focus groups.
Ethnography – the study of people in a real-world environment – can give a more accurate picture than a self-complete questionnaire. Ethnography enables researchers to embed themselves in the world of the subject that they are studying. Traditional ethnography is generally conducted by the researcher spending time with participants. This could be observing participants at home, work or in a social setting to understand how people interact in these environments or with specific products or services. In regards to products and services, other ethnography techniques include directly speaking with participants about their experience. Usually, this means participants elaborate their thoughts and motivations on the product or service. This method of ethnography can uncover further detail that may not have been first noticed by simply observing participants and can prove to be valuable for ethnographic research.
In addition to traditional ethnography, there is also growing trend toward using digital ethnography, where computers and mobile devices are used to gather research data. For example, mobile diaries allow researchers to capture experiences as they happen and as mobile tech continues to proliferate digital ethnography, it has the added benefit of reaching a larger audience.
Although there are many benefits of both traditional and digital ethnography there are many considerations to bear in mind when approaching this style of qualitative market research. For example, you can’t just film someone and observe them at work, you need their consent before you can commence the research.
The incentives for ethnographic research will also need to be considered carefully due to the nature of the research. As this style of market research is fully immersive and is extremely time-consuming for participants they will need to be reimbursed to reflect this accordingly. From our experience, we have found that cash incentives work best for this research methodology.
5) Telephone Interviews
Researchers use telephone interviews to gather quantitative and qual market research data. For qualitative data, researchers use a discussion guide instead of a structured interview. This will allow participants to elaborate when necessary but will ensure that they do not deter too far from the questions outlined in the discussion guide.
There are many benefits of telephone interviews, the main benefit being that you can interview geographically dispersed participants at a lower cost.
6) In-home Interviews
In-home interviews are a great methodology to gather invaluable insight into participants home lives that can’t always be achieved via other methodologies. By conducting research in participants natural environments you may be able to gather valuable insights into their behaviours. Something which can’t be achieved from traditional research settings.
Another benefit of conducting research in participants homes is that the respondent is generally at ease. As the research is in the comfort of the respondent's homes the participant is usually more relaxed and comfortable. This comfort can often lead to respondents being more forthcoming with their responses, offering deeper insight.
In addition to this, children are more likely to be able to participate in-home interviews. Parents usually feel more comfortable with their children taking part in research at home as they are there to observe. Also, conducting qualitative market research in a child’s own home means that they are familiar with their surroundings and relaxed which could help them to open up more.
Although there are many benefits for in-home interviews, it comes with its own set of complications to consider too. Often this methodology is time-consuming due to the logistics of the type of research as your ideal sample could live nationwide meaning additional travelling is required. This travelling time is in addition to the duration of the research which could be between 60-90 minutes. Not only are in-home interviews time-consuming but they are also expensive to conduct, especially when you factor in the cost of travelling.
Overall your choice of market research methodology is dependent on what your research is trying to achieve, your budget and your sample. We hope that you have found our guide to selecting the right market research methodology for you useful.
If you would like more information on how to recruit the best participants for focus groups or other research methodologies then download our guide below!