Market Research » Qualitative Data Analysis and its Value for Businesses

Qualitative Data Analysis and its Value for Businesses

Qualitative data analysis is the way to answer many questions surveys which can’t be solved by surveys alone


Qualitative data analysis plays a crucial role in both the early and often later stages of market analysis. This post offers key reasons why qualitative research methods are considered best-supporting actors, but more often than not, the main attraction.


We often find our TVs blaring with musical advertisements released by soft drink companies. In these magical marketing campaigns, viewers usually find a group of disheveled friends looking to escape their daily grind.


Enter a beverage bottle, and the world comes to life! Dance sequences follow, and the folks who dominate our screens wear the widest smiles. It seems as if the drink in question has mitigated everyone’s worries, and for a moment, all is well.


Seeing that a beverage promises guaranteed happiness, people rush to their nearest grocery store to get their hands on a bottle, and the business responsible for manufacturing the drink booms! Such an accomplishment wouldn’t be possible if the beverage producer treated customers as mere statistics instead of exploring their subjective desires about what they want in life.


This is where qualitative data analysis and its power to boost a brand’s performance come into the picture.


Using disciplines like phenomenology, qualitative analyses help companies understand a customer’s psychological approach to investing in a business. This data point becomes an important contribution to the market research a brand undertakes.


In soft drink campaigns, brands can use the insights provided through qualitative means to identify that people wish to find relief from stressors. Once unearthed, this discovery dictates that an advertisement should show a link between a beverage and being at peace.


What the brand has managed to do is show customers that it understands how exhausting their lives are and has offered a solution to this problem. When customers see that a brand cares about them, they will have no qualms about doing business with the former.



Key Characteristics of Qualitative Data Analysis


True to its name, qualitative data analysis pertains to the quality, not the number of responses you gather through your market research. It gathers detailed, subjective data and helps you enter customers’ minds to gauge how they interact with your products and services and how they think you can make improvements.


Let’s understand this characteristic of qualitative research with an example. Assume that you are a brand that manufactures perfumes for women. In quantitative data analysis, you can ask your clients whether they like the new line of scents you have just launched, and they can respond by saying yes or no.


While these yes/no responses can help you conclude what direction your customers are leaning towards, they don’t let you see why. 


For instance, 50 women might indicate during a statistical questionnaire that they aren’t fond of your new fragrances. But if you wish to understand the reasons behind this preference, you’ll have to interview the participants in a qualitative study that can unearth what went wrong with the perfumes and how you can eliminate errors you discover. Maybe participants will state that the smell was way too strong for their liking. Your next launch, therefore, can feature more subtle scents.


By providing insight into why customers didn’t like your product, your qualitative data analysis has helped you understand your target market’s current demands. At the same time, it has also presented what your client’s beliefs and values are – in this case, the idea that strong scents are repulsive while delicate ones are more welcome.


Since qualitative analyses work with large chunks of data, they can also help you study your competitors and find ways to gain the upper hand over them. While discussing with your potential perfume purchasers, for instance, you can ask participants which brand’s fragrances they actually like, and their answers can give you a company to review for its production processes which you can align yourself with (or better yet, perfect) so that the same customers can give you their business as well.


This may not be possible in a quantitative survey because you wouldn’t have the freedom to have at-length conversations with your participants.



Qualitative Methods for Market Research


Qualitative research methods can complement quantitative ones to draw the most accurate conclusions from your market research. Consisting of surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observations, qualitative methods can leave a wealth of information at your disposal, which you can utilize to make rewarding business decisions.



Using Surveys for Qualitative Market Research


When you talk about surveys, people usually assume that you’re conducting numerical research. This is because these tools consist of a list of questions usually targeted at generating statistical responses. For instance, they feature the Likert scale, where a participant has to rank their like or dislike for a product/service on a 5-point range.


However, even though surveys are largely quantitative, they can be customized for qualitative research as well. For this purpose, researchers can include additional space for participants to explain the reasons behind a rating they have recorded. For instance, in a question talking about transactional behaviors, if a client says that they go grocery shopping twice a week, they can explain why in a subsequent section.



Insightful One-on-One Interview in Qualitative Data Analysis


One-on-one interviews are the foundation of qualitative data analysis. Individual interviews can be conducted in person, over the phone, or online audio or video platforms.


The trick to carrying out successful interviews is to make sure that you have broken the ice and helped the interviewee feel comfortable enough to answer questions in detail. To achieve this, don’t jump right to asking questions about your products. Give the respondent time to be at ease by having a colloquial conversation first. You can, e.g., inquire about their health and their day before leading the discussion to your topic of choice.


Abiding by research ethics is crucial while conducting interviews. Besides gaining informed consent, you mustn’t ask participants leading questions to create ideas in the latter’s mind and generate biased answers. To ensure that your questions are objective, carefully review them before posing them in the interview.


If, for instance, you are investigating how clients have reacted to a new tie-dye clothing range, you shouldn’t be asking a leading question such as ‘what do you like about tie-dye patterns.’ In this question, because you have automatically assumed that the respondent likes tie-dye, you will leave them no room to express that they don’t like the pattern. A more objective question would be: ‘what do you think about tie-dye patterns.’



Fantastic Focus Groups the Heart of Qualitative Data Research


Qualitative interviews are also conducted in focus groups. Here, you can invite a group of people and hold a moderated discussion about your products and services. Focus groups are usually defined by a casual environment that reflects a natural conversation taking place amongst friends.


However, as the researcher, your job will be to take notes to record people’s responses as they talk. You will also find yourself probing the participants to discuss a data point that emerges in the conversation you find interesting and important for your market research

Outdoor qualitative market research 2

Focus groups are safe spaces for your customers to express their opinions. To ensure that they remain safe, you must request all participants to adhere to guidelines stating that the thoughts people share should be accepted and respected by everyone in the room.


The main advantage of focus groups is that they allow an in-depth discussion to flourish even when you have run out of questions. This happens when a participant brings up a point you may not have thought of and bounces off ideas with the others present.


Awe-Inspiring Observations


Studying your customers’ non-verbal cues is an interesting part of qualitative data analysis.


Keep in mind that qualitative research often gets a bad rep because people think it leads to biased responses. While it is possible that in interviews, participants may say what they think will please the researcher, observations can record their authentic, unfiltered reactions to a product or service.


This can be done by accompanying clients to shop-alongs where researchers can note down the facial expressions of the former when they first make eye contact with the product under investigation.


Of course, it is possible that when participants know they are being observed, they can alter their behavior. Still, it’s difficult to mask an intense feeling of excitement or disgust when you see something and are heavily impacted by it!


Online Focus Groups have also become a reliable way to conduct much of the qualitative research being done in the 21st century and finding qualified participants may be easier than you think because leveraging a market research panel is an excellent option for recruitment and incentivizing participants.



Coding Qualitative Data


As mentioned previously, qualitative research unearths the hordes of information. Given that this information takes the form of lengthy statements, it isn’t easy to make sense of it once the research has ended. The art of data coding though steps in at this point and saves the day.


In a nutshell, coding refers to assigning a specific value to qualitative data sets that share similar characteristics.


For instance, if you are a restaurant and are researching customers’ food preferences, you can assign the number 2 to every response that indicates an affinity for Chinese food. At the end of your investigation, all you’ll have to do is compile all the responses that have been coded with this number to conclude how many people love this particular kind of cuisine.


Imagine the hassle you would have to face if you didn’t code responses throughout your study and are left digging through hundreds of verbose paragraphs to find which folks said they love dumplings with their meals!





All businesses anticipate the wind in their sails when they set out on a journey of entrepreneurial success. Yet, when they become disconnected from their customers, they often meet a fate made tragic by the shipwreck of financial losses.


Qualitative data analysis is a way to connect with customers before disaster strikes. It helps you travel into the minds of your clients and make profound discoveries about their likes, dislikes, wants, and needs. These discoveries are what must guide your voyages as you make your way to the global business hall of fame!



Jim Whaley

Jim Whaley



Jim Whaley is a business leader, market research expert, and writer. He posts frequently on The Standard Ovation and other industry blogs.

OvationMR is a global provider of first-party data for those seeking solutions that require information for informed business decisions.

OvationMR is a leader in delivering insights and reliable results across a variety of industry sectors around the globe consistently for market research professionals and management consultants.


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