There’s simply no substitute for going out and talking to your customers, for observing them in the store or as they use the product and surveying them about their preferences.

Quantitative and qualitative research methods

Successful companies are those that have marketing research in their DNA. Your customers will constantly surprise you if you take the opportunity to listen to them and watch what they’re doing.

In order to make the best use of our time I thought it would focus on some of the marketing research techniques you may be less familiar with. This should not be interpreted as a slight against the old standbys: conducting surveys or analyzing secondary data like sales data or web traffic.

Quantitative research methods can yield powerful insights but you probably. You already know quite a bit about surveys having taken roughly a gazillion of them in your lifetime and digging into the basics of regression analysis necessary to analyze big data is outside the scope of this course.

So instead of going to focus on some of the qualitative marketing research methods you may be less familiar with. Qualitative research methods include: customer observations, focus groups ethnographies and projective techniques.

The data produced from qualitative methods are most often expressed in qualitative terms stories about typical customer experiences, representative quotes from customers things like that.

A culture of qualitative research

Some companies have a culture that embraces qualitative research because they believed these methods produce uniquely useful insights. Consider Procter & Gamble’s official research philosophy “We live with our consumers and tried to see the world and opportunities for new products through their eyes. At P&G the CEO is not the boss the consumer is”.

That means that living with consumers and seeing the world through their eyes is what qualitative research is all about. You don’t get that by conducting some surveys or looking at sales data. The goal of qualitative research is to shed all the baggage that comes from working for a firm of being involved with the marketing of a product of understanding all the behind-the-scenes decisions that lead to an offer in coming to market.

To put all that to the side and to rediscover the offering from the customer’s perspective. None of this is to say that qualitative research is superior quantitative techniques. Qualitative research and quantitative research are not substitutes for each other. Procter & Gamble is also a big proponent of using quantitative research to guide their decisions.

Mixing different types of research

The best scenario is one in which a marketer can make use of many different types of research when making their decisions. Multiple research methods can and ideally should be used iteratively constantly looking for new insights and testing those insights with additional research before starting all over again.

When conducting qualitative research the goal is to develop a rich understanding of your customers in situ, as they shop as they consume as they talk to others about your products and services. The output of these qualitative research techniques is often referred to as thick descriptions though often include direct quotes from the customers to illustrate various points.

The goal is verisimilitude, an accurate representation of the experience of the customer capturing the essence by digging in the individual experiences and looking for generalizable similarities across individual customer experiences.

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