The Top Qualitative Research Methods for Business Success

Qualitative Research Methods - What to Know

Though most schools teach about quantitative methods and qualitative analysis in grade school, many adults can't remember exactly what the difference is. Qualitative research in social research acquires qualitative data through in-depth interviews, interview focus groups, and participant observation.
It does not rely on numerical data or statistics but conversational communication.

On the other hand, quantitative research strictly focuses on statistical information. While businesses typically rely on quantitative data to learn about customers, more organizations see the benefit in a more communicative research approach.

Companies use different research methods and data analysis to answer research questions and drill down into vast quantities of data collected. Qualitative research methods are not just about what consumers think or want, but why they behave the way they do.

To illustrate, a retailer's customers tend to respond more to social media content that includes live streams. The store's research question is why the content is so popular, and which type of live stream content stands out the most.

Researchers schedule interview focus groups of a certain sample size to ask consumers these questions. Finally, the retailer creates a case study after they parse through all of the content analysis and field notes.

Organizations can use the research process to drill down into statistical data and learn what drives customer behavior. They use findings to decrease inefficiencies, improve marketing strategies, and attract new customers. As a result, businesses increase profit margins and grow the bottom line. They also create a more personalized customer experience to increase brand loyalty.

1. One-On-One Interviews in a Qualitative Study

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A common research qualitative practice is interviews focus groups. A researcher interviews one applicant at a time. He/she converses with the individual and uses specific questions to collect more market research.
This type of research design is beneficial because qualitative researchers can perform data collection to find out motives.

An interviewer can ask follow-up questions if he/she needs to gather additional data.
Examples include face-to-face meetings, phone calls, or surveys. In-person interviews are preferable because the researcher can assess body language and tone of voice. This gives more insight into why the person responds in the manner he/she does. The researcher then gathers the field notes to perform collection analysis at a later time.

2. Focus Groups for Qualitative Studies

Businesses typically use a focus group as their primary qualitative methods. An organization takes a specific number of applicants from a target market to carry out the process. The purpose of a focus group is to pinpoint why people act a certain way and how they do it.

Traditionally, businesses did focus-groups in person. Now, they hold many of the group sessions online or through a survey. The focus group method can be costly in comparison to other data collection analysis. Many companies use a focus group to research trends or see whether a customer likes a product.

3. Ethnographic Methods Data

The ethnographic method is a full scope, comprehensive research process. A researcher picks a group of individuals to study and observes them in their typical environment. The researcher must become a part of the groups' environment, wherever the location is. This can be expensive and challenging if there are financial limitations on a company's travel budget.

The purpose is to fully comprehend the target market's culture, difficulties, and situations that arise. Rather than carry out an interview, a researcher observes individuals in their habitat. Academia or scientists are most likely to use an ethnographic model, though some other industries do as well.

4. Case Study Methods Data Collection

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Researchers who want to know more about an organization or particular entity use the case study method. Academia, social sciences, and other education-based entities tend to carry out a case study.

For example, psychologists may want to study the relationship between genetics and addiction to improve treatment. Or, a business may write an account of customers' experiences with the organization to optimize future customer service.

5. Qualitative Research - Keeping Records

Record-keeping takes existing documents and other data and performs an analysis. For example, an organization may collect competitor reports online to find weaknesses and create a new business strategy.

Every piece of reference data an organization collects they use as the foundation for a future study. Businesses may instruct staff to save certain documents in case they use them for analysis qualitative study. The insights they extract can help to increase profits, minimize inefficiencies, and attract new customers.

6. Research Design - Observation Method

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Businesses use a set of subjective methods to collect research data. A researcher employs his/her senses (eyes and ears) to learn more about a target market. Unlike the ethnographic method, the researcher does not immerse himself in the culture but observes it from a distance. Methodologies are always subjective, which implies that the researcher implants his/her perspective in the process.

The findings depend upon the subjective experience of the researcher. The organization bases its findings on the personal opinions and subjective experience of the researcher as much as the group. The most successful observation method studies employ several different researchers to gain numerous different perspectives. Businesses can then compare and contrast the observation data to see if there are any correlations.

Qualitative Research - Key Takeaways

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  • Interviews focus on why a customer behaves the way he/she does. They may also establish a focus group to learn about group customer behavior and study body language.
  • Businesses use the ethnographic method to study individuals in their natural environment. Academia and scientific-based organizations use this method more than other industries.
  • Businesses can locate existing documents and records to conduct a case study. Academia and the social sciences use this method more often than other types of businesses.
  • Researchers take their subjective experience and insert it into a study in the observation method. Many companies use more than one researcher to compare and contrast different experiences.