When undertaking any market research, there are two broad strands – quantitative and qualitative research data.
Naturally, there can be confusion as to what each type involves sand how they differ and also work together.
Fortunately, at Acumen we are experts in both and so in this page run through what the key points relating to quantitative data – in layman’s terms.
Quantitative data research relates to numbers and how you can group things together.
It is research that looks at a broad level and does not delve down into the individual.
Quantitative research would look to find which the most popular car make is, or how baby name choices have changed over time. It would not ascertain why car brand X is more popular among under 30s than car brand Y.
Although you specifically searched for information related to quantitative research methods, it is difficult to understand one of the strands without thinking of it in context with the other.
Quantitative data analysis and qualitative usually work together – even if not simultaneously. It will often be that qualitative follows on from the quantitative, the two analysis methods helping to provide a comprehensive answer to the research question.
Quantitative is about the broad trends and groupings. Qualitative is about the detail and the reasoning behind choices – whether this reasoning is conscious or subconscious.
To give an example, if we were to look at leisure activities, initial data collection might show us that 10,000 jog, 3,000 swim, 1,500 walk the dog and 800 go rock climbing.
That’s all great, and from that maybe some plans can be made – the surprising popularity of rock climbing might encourage a local leisure centre to add a climbing wall!
However, we don’t know why people are making these choices. The statistical analysis cannot tell us whether some of those joggers would opt to swim if only the pool was closer. How many even know that rock climbing exists?
And, for each, what is it about that activity that makes them choose it – and what puts them off other choices.
This is of course a basic example, but it is a simplistic view of how the two work together. The quantitative research has found the popularity of the activities in basic numbers, the qualitative then looks behind this to find the reasons.
If qualitative analysis looks at the detail, why not just jump straight to this stage? What’s the benefit of first having quantitative data analysis?
One key issue is that there would be too many different potential avenues to explore and no certainty as to which were the right questions.
You need that initial stage of data collection.
To return to our basic example, if you hadn’t first found out which activities the public said were their go-to choices how could you then start drilling into why some were more popular?
Without the quantitative data, there could be no assurance that any questions sued as follow-ups were sensible or valid – or that key questions weren’t being missed.
The initial stage might have shown that rock climbing was surprisingly popular, whilst cycling surprisingly unpopular – both of these then potentially areas to delve into with more probing.
The data might also have shown that certain activities greatly over performed or underperformed with different age groups.
Key to this is that, while you might be able to make sensible predictions, you cannot be sure what the patterns are until you have the data.
Quantitative research is the bedrock, it allows you to say that you know this for a fact – this is how many people use X, this is the ranking of different choices by popularity.
Then, over a coffee (or several) and with pens at hand, you can start thinking of what to drill into for the next stage.
A number of techniques for acquiring data are possible – skilled market research experts will work to find the options that deliver useful information in the most practical manner.
The following are just some of the available techniques.
We have all filled out surveys in our time. A survey simply gathers a snapshot of opinion – it can be of that moment or used as a longitudinal study whereby the survey is run at different periods to see how trends change.
Surveys used to be wholly pen and paper affairs – the person with a clipboard stopping you (or trying to stop you) in the street.
That method still exists and has uses – if you want to get the opinion of shoppers where better than at the mall? However, it is far from the only option now.
Other survey options include – phone, online, across social media, email, app, point of sale / service and more. You may be familiar with the gamification of surveys – the concept of filling out online surveys for reward, this approach can be popular too, though there is an obvious requirement to ensure the data being captured is valid and not just people filling out surveys they shouldn’t be accessing.
You wouldn’t, for instance, want thousands of people in London responding to a survey on travel choices in Manchester simply because they had found the link and could get a small reward for entering details.
An interview can be a superb bridge between quant and qualitative research, in particular, because it builds a relationship with the person being quizzed as the data is collected.
Interviews used to be largely face-to-face, but have moved to being predominantly online, this an obvious efficiency in terms of time and expense. However, there will still be cases when in-person is best.
The interview is likely to run through a setlist of question sot gather the data and associated information. Then, when the results from multiple participants haven been grouped, there is the opportunity for follow-ups and delving into qualitative research.
Real skill is required for effective interviewing as it may be that at times it is worth dipping into the why of an answer. Let’s say the interview is related to public transport and the most popular options as a council works out where to prioritise spending. A respondent might say they sue the bus and train but not the tram, offering in ‘not after the awful service of a year ago’.
Finding a few details on this specific ‘why’ could be valuable to shaping future qualitative research, even if the plan wasn’t to collate this information during the initial call to acquire numerical data.
Quantitative data analysis and qualitative are separate, but as part of an overall project there always needs to be ongoing thought about how any bit of information might be useful in future. There is a need to be agile when working on all research questions.
User testing is another of the quantitative methods available.
Again, the aim is to find broad trends. Was a product easy to use, which elements of it proved problematic.
To use the example of a website, could users find a certain page or work out how to complete a process.
You will notice that a website such as Amazon never actually has a major redesign, the design is forever subtly changing – it may even change day by day. this is because there is continual user testing happening, even if you are not aware of it.
They will be looking at how every tweak impacts user behaviour – we are all user testing without even knowing it.
There are advantages to this form of analysis and also ‘disadvantages’ – this in reality because it is not intended to be used in isolation.
Benefits of quantitative analysis methods are:
One useful way to gain a further insight into quantitative research methods is to look at some past examples.
We have worked on numerous projects and links to two very different projects are below – both heavily utilised this form of descriptive statistics.
At Acumen, we have a dedicated quantitative research team with an embedded data analysis unit to ensure all insights can be delivered instantly to clients in their preferred manner.
Regularly lauded for our innovative approach – an approach that ensures we embrace new technology to deliver insights in the most efficient manner – we would welcome the chance to discuss your project on an obligation-free basis.
The proof of our quality is in our case studies and past clients. Please take some time to view our past work, this shows how we worked with clients to understand their needs, advise as appropriate and deliver the findings that could benefit their business.
We have won awards, received accreditation and have professional certification, for instance for data usage – you can find out more on this site.
We also have a bespoke verification programme called Acumonitor, this verifies all participants. We take every step to ensure you can be confident in the validity of the research and analysis we provide.
Acumonitor is an example of how we are actively looking to drive the standards of market research forward – you can read more and watch a short video that explains more.