Why qualitative research? (Case study and solution)

The qualitative approach within the market research industry is of increasing importance. Why this approach is required in many occasions?

Tempranillo varietal wine bottle and glass, sh...
Tempranillo varietal wine bottle and glass, showing colour Shot with Nikon D70s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CASE STUDY¹. Imaging your company want to export Spanish wine to Poland. In this country, it is well known that either beer or vodka are more popular drink than wine, but nothing is clear about the Polish delight in wine, and even less in Spanish wine. For this reason, the company has contacted a market research agency and they plan to develop a telephone survey of a Polish population representative sample. Results show that just 10% of population drinks more than one glass of wine a month, instead of the 20% in other eastern European countries. Also, results show that the consumption of wine is less common in the group between 25 and 35 years old. The researcher seems to have a clear marketing strategy.

But something important is still up in the air. How to address this population? A qualitative approach has complemented the quantitative data by mean a number of focus groups in Warsaw. The idea of the research is gathering at least eight people between 25 and 35 years old that do not consume wine usually and another group of eight people at the same age who consume wine at least once a month. Questions as “habits of alcohol consumption in general”, “willingness to increase wine consumption”, “reasons to not consume” were asked. Below you can see some of the sentences that were listened to in the discussions:

“…I do not drink wine because I never know what kind of wine goes with each food…”

“…I have a feeling that wine is more for old people, and I feel young…”

“I do prefer to support Polish industry of vodka and beer”

“…yeah! and also for high standard of living people, I feel that beer is more…how to say…more akin to my people”

“…bottles information are not translated into polish so I do not even know where this wine is from”

“…I get drunk too fast! beer is more kind of easy-going…”

“…I really like wine but all my friends prefer beer so… I don´t want to be a weirdo when go to a party…”

QUESTION: WHAT MAKES THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH DIFFERENT FROM QUANTITATIVE ONE?

________________________________________________________________________________________

Solution

The quantitative approach is very important to quantify the reality. The representative percentage of wine-consumers in Poland or the frequency of consuming is unobtainable but by mean questionnaire or statistics. Ad hoc questionnaire may help us also to understand opinions and attitudes of people toward your product by mean opinion scales as well as including some open-ended questions.

However, three factors make this approach inappropriate when investigator sought a more detailed opinion:

1. Time: especially in phone questionnaires, the interviewees feel generally in hurry either by the surveyor or by him/herself. On the contrary, the more calm and tranquil atmosphere provided by qualitative methods as interview or focus group, encourages a major commitment and engagement.

Source: http://ehowton.livejournal.com/447571.html
Source: http://ehowton.livejournal.comou/447571.html

2. Interaction: while the interaction in quantitative methods in occasions does not even exist or is limited to a phone conversation, in the qualitative one, the number of interaction increases exponentially, allowing at the same time a major capacity to adjust questions and improvising new ones as the interviews progress. In the case of the focus group, the interaction is produced also among the members of the group which represent a great advantage of this technique, since many of the most profound opinions we have are just seen clearly by ourselves after discussing with others.

3. Depth of the analysis: quantitative approach usually deals with countable behaviors or resources: number of wine bottles sold in Poland last year, number of wine glass per week, etc. it hardly allow researcher gets know about emotions, values and beliefs. Making use of the iceberg metaphor, focus group, interview, but also the analysis of comments in forums or just graffiti in a wall expresses better than nothing our deepest view of the world.

Finally: critical reflection for a organization manager: What values do your brand transmit? Is your organization media strategy connected efficiently with your buyers? What is more, is your organization media strategy connected with your potential market?  Just when a company reach to understand its target´s deepest and detailed opinions, values and beliefs, the marketing and communication strategies implemented may cause a truly impact on the sales.

References

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.
Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.
Silverman, D. (2011). Interpreting qualitative data. Sage Publications Limited.
1 This case is not real, although some of the sentences were taken from real cases

Qualitative methods for market research. The subject.

After providing in the previous two posts a brief definition of both terms “qualitative method” and “market research“, we are in a position to clarify what Qualitative methods of market research subject is about (see about for further details on this blog). The main objective of the subject is learning how to collect text (and images) information systematically in order to understand the relation between buyers and sellers of a specific product or service that occurs or might occur in the future in a part of the worldMore specifically, the subject will aim the managing of the below qualitative research techniques (as well as its respective emerging online variant)

  1. In-depth Interviews
  2. Narratives
  3. Focus groups
  4. Verbal data
  5. Participant observation and ethnography
  6. Visual data: photography, film and video

Furthermore, a number of secondary objectives must be pointed out. Apart from the collection of information itself, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of the research process as a whole. In other words, you as researcher may manage the above techniques but it would be pointless if you are not aware of a number of steps that all researchers must bear in mind when developing a research project and that forms what is called “research process”. This process, that will be addressed in future posts, goes from the mere formulation of the research question to the final presentation of the results.

Finally, ethics of research, origin and history of market research as well a brief theoretical approaches overview complement the secondary objectives of this subject.

Below you can find the main references taken to the production of the material for the subject´s content.

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.

Gummesson, E. (1999). Qualitative methods in management research. Sage Publications, Incorporated.

Ibáñez, J. (1979). Más allá de la sociología: El Grupo de Discusión: teoría y crítica. Siglo XXI de España Editores.

Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.

Mella, O. (1998). Naturaleza y orientaciones teórico-metodológicas de la investigación cualitativa. Santiago: CIDE, 51.

Silverman, D. (2011). Interpreting qualitative data. Sage Publications Limited.

The meaning of qualitative methods

Throwing an eye over the definition provided by oxford dictionary will make easier to understand the meaning of the term qualitative method. The word “method” refers to “a particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one”. On the other hand, if we claim the same source for the word qualitative it means “relating to, measuring, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity”.

In other words, a qualitative method is a particular procedure for approaching something systematically in order to measure it by the quality rather than the quantity. The mere definition of the term is usually made in opposition to “quantitative method” which essentially refers to a procedure to describe something regarding the size. But above all, a qualitative method is about text. The “closed-ended question” usually set in survey questionnaires are replace for “open-ended question” that ask the respondent to suply text responses.

It is important to add that the qualitative methods are originally rooted into social science, it is, psychology, economy, sociology, anthropology but also management science. Although social science´s approach was in its origin more akin to the quantitative method, several scientists noticed, since the end of the XIX century, the limitation of the quantitative approach to the study of human and social behavior. The central argument has been that the application of a survey and experiment research squemata does not take sufficiently into account the differences between human beings and the object from the natural sciences.280px-Bronisław_Malinowski_among_Trobriand_tribe_3

On the contrary, qualitative methods such as in-depth interviews or observation were considered more appropriate to understand the human behavior. Curiously, it was a polish anthropologist, Bronisław Malinowski, who first applied, at the beginning of XX century, what is considered the oldest qualitative method: “participant observation“. By mean this method, he conducted several fieldworks in order to analyze patterns of exchange in aboriginal communities, mainly in Africa and Australia. He remains the hallmark of ethnographic research today.

Perhaps, quantitative approach is still dominant, but the truth is that the qualitative one has also experienced a great development up to date, giving room for many theoretical and empirical positions. Apart from participant observation, other methods as focus group, in-depth interviews and ethnography are an essential part of today´s social science and, specially, regarding market research industry.

References

Craig J. Calhoun, Donald Light, Suzanne Infeld Keller. Sociology. McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.

Mella, O. (1998). Naturaleza y orientaciones teórico-metodológicas de la investigación cualitativa. Santiago: CIDE, 51.

Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Oxford dictionaries http://oxforddictionaries.com/