Qualitative research is “research based on describing markets in a way that captures their meaning and significance, typically generated by in depth interviews and group discussions” (Schiffman et al. 2014, p.687). It is a commonly used research approach in marketing as it is relatively inexpensive, time friendly, and can be tailored to gain insight on the attitudes and expectations of consumers. But what gives it a major advantage over other research methods in consumer research?
Consumer research is based on consumers behavior when engaging in purchase activities. It focuses strongly on the way consumers feel about situations, processes they take, and their preferences when engaging in purchase activities. Qualitative research is effective at tapping into the consumers minds and presenting information in a practical relatable way.
The Research Technique
Whilst qualitative research has some limitations, it provides a multitude of advantages to marketers. This research technique is most effective as issues relating to consumers can be explored in detail and in depth rather than through analyzing numbers. Research is commonly not restricted to specific questions and may be altered and re directed by the researcher at any time which results in richer data. Qualitative research is based on human experience, of which is highly relatable to consumer research.
Examples of advantages of focus groups in particular are that they; “Do not discriminate against people who cannot read or write, Can encourage participation from those who are reluctant to be interviewed on their own (such as those intimidated by the formality and isolation of a one to one interview), [and] Can encourage contributions from people who feel they have nothing to say or who are deemed “unresponsive patients” (but engage in the discussion generated by other group members)” (Kitzinger J, 1995). Through such unstructured research techniques often subjects or topics of interest are uncovered that other forms of research do not expose. Qualitative research findings can be transferred amongst settings which is valuable and relatable to many consumer situations.
Types of Qualitative Research
There are various research methods that are commonly used; Ethnography, observation, documentary analysis, interviews, case studies, and focus groups to name a few.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the research technique here is an example of how focus groups and interviews work through researching consumers attitudes towards the iphone.
Why Qualitative Research Is Effective In Consumer Research
Qualitative research is most effective in consumer research as it allows researchers to tune into the views and attitudes of consumers in a real life context. I know that there would be no way that anyone could tune into my attitudes and consumer habits without engaging in a conversation with me or physically experiencing the scenario with me, of which are both examples of qualitative research. They would have to engage in focus groups, interviews, or even in ethnography to establish a strong understanding of my consumer habits and the meaning behind them.
I believe consumer behavior can not be effectively measured or understood through the use of numeric data and analysis, This is why qualitative research is most effective.
WebMD LLC, 2015, Presenting and Evaluating Qualitative Research, Medscape, viewed 6 May 2015, <http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/731165_3>
Schiffman, L, O’Cass, A, Paladino, A, Carlsom, J, 2014, Consumer Behaviour, 6th edn, Pearson Australia, Frenchs Forest, NSW, p.687.
J, 2009, Marketing Research iPhone Focus Group & Interviews, online video, 5 October 2009, You Tube, viewed 6 May 2015,< https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_uQ-6zhQdw >.
Kitzinger J, 1995, ‘Qualitative research. Introducing focus groups’, the bmj, no.311, pp. 299-302, viewed 6 May 2015, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2550365/?tool=pmcentrez>