Market Research Tutorial: Qualitative Market Research Methodologies

Okay. The market research tutorial has now arrived at the meat and potatoes or, if you will, the bread and butter of how to do market research.

From here on in the market research tutorial, we'll be exploring the how of doing a market research project. It all begins with choosing the right methodology or methodologies for your project. On this page and the next, we'll describe both qualitative market research methodologies and quantitative.

First, qualitative market research methods.

The two most widely-used qualitative methods are focus groups and in-depth interviews.

Focus groups generally consist of between 8 and 10 respondents, chosen from the population from which you are looking for answers. Often, if you are planning to follow the groups with a quantitative effort, you would look for individuals who met other specific requirements as well, such as "heavy" users of your productsand services, or frequent shoppers. You would determine this by either looking at your internal data (assuming you have usage data) and then selecting the group that meets your requirement. Alternatively, you could "screen" potential respondents for usage. The market research tutorial suggests that it is often wise to do both.

Let's say you are looking for heavy users, and further, that a "heavy" users purchases at least one item from you each month. And let's say also that you have a customer record, with name, address, and telephone number. However, what you do not truly know is which individual in the household actually makes the purchase. So you would screen (or administer a short questionnaire) to qualify respondents for your groups.

In a focus group, your respondents would be taken through a series of questions and/or exercises that are would elicit responses that collectively would answer the objectives you set for the project.

Similarly, you would do much the same for in-depth interviews. Usually for in-depths, respondents are interviewed individuallyrather than in a group. Infrequently, your research needs may call for having in-depths with two or even three persons ata time.

Focus groups are typically done when the interplay of respondents can add richness to the results. In-depths are used when researchers are looking to understand behavior or decision-making without the potential influence of others.

Both focus groups and in-depths are usually held at facilities designed for such research. Such facilities are located inrelatively urbanized areas. They have specially designed conference rooms for the respondents and moderator (the person wholeads the discussion) and a viewing room for clients to observe through a one-way mirror. Proceedings can be both audio and video recorded. Facilities can provide for recruiting respondents from a client list or from their own in-house lists. Respondentsare compensated for their time and effort. Depending on the project and the respondents required, this compensation will generally range from $50 per respondents up to $300 (as of 2007).

Two other types of qualitative research are infrequently used: in-home interviews and ethnographic or observational research.

In-home interviews are conducted where respondents live. As with focus groups and in-depths, in-home interviews are typicallyconducted by a moderator who will often ask the respondent to show how a product or service is actually used in the home. Withethnographic research, a researcher follows and observes respondents (with the respondent's permission) as they go about their usual business. This provides an even more in-depth look at how consumers use products and services and, more importantly,their interactions.

Again, it must be emphasized that qualitative market research techniques do not yield statistically-reliable data and thereforecannot be used to draw inferences to the underlying population. That said, these techniques are very useful in helpingbusinesses understand the emotional and interactive fundamentals of products and services.

Forward now in the market research tutorial to Quantitative Market Research Methodologies.

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