No Time For Qualitative Research – No Problem!

Many clients we’ve spoken with in the past year have expressed a dilemma. While they appreciate the value of qualitative research, they often simply don’t have the time to conduct both qualitative and quantitative research sequentially. And given the choice of quantitative over qualitative, in some situations they lean towards quantitative to help increase their confidence in the decision that needs to be made. We see evidence of this this as the most recent GRIT research report confirms that of research buyers surveyed 59% of techniques used were quantitative, compared to 35% qualitative (and a bit of ‘other’).

The ideal

The ideal in many instances, would be to conduct qualitative research before quantitative. The qualitative helps shape the design of the quantitative questions, flow and response options and also helps to humanize the ‘target’. If stimulus is being shown, optimizing it first qualitatively can make for a much more meaningful quantitative assessment.

There is also a case to be made for conducting qualitative research after the quantitative to help contextualize the findings. The quantitative research provides the what, where, when and how and the qualitative shapes the massively important why along with having the potential to provide deep ‘human’ context to the quant findings.


When the ideal is not an option

We all know that in the real world we don’t always have the budget or the time to conduct every project the ‘ideal’ way. In those cases, what if your qualitative research was not a sequential step in the process but rather a concurrent one? Imagine by the time your quantitative results are reported on, you also have the qualitative context and colour? You understand the ‘whys’ and see your respondents as the humans they are, rather than averages or segments, ‘respondents’. What if you could do all of that without having had to commission a separate study?

Upwords has a hybrid solution that does all of that.


Here’s an example:

A client was assessing five new product concepts. They had arranged for quantitative research but they had not had time to optimize the concepts qualitatively in advance. There was some language being used to describe the new ideas that the team hypothesized might be polarizing. The Upwords team worked closely with the client’s quantitative research partner to invite ‘qualifying’ participants to an online discussion after completing their survey. In this case we planned to ‘talk’ to five who really loved the ideas, and five who did not like each of them to enable a deeper dive on the reasons why.


We further screened the pool of participants who qualified by checking their open-ended responses in the survey. We invited those who showed themselves to be more articulate in the open-ends, rather than those who just typed in N/A or very short non detailed responses.


Once in the online discussion the our moderators personally connected with each participant letting them know how this piece of the project was different from the survey they just completed. We then ‘dove deeper’ with them to understand the nuances of language and context and their personal stories that help shape the quantitative responses.


In the end, the final report was holistically presented, with the qual seamlessly integrated with the quant.


An iterative pause

We are firm believers in using research iteratively whenever possible, as it builds on the foundations of Design Thinking. On one recent project, we were looking at optimizing six concepts that were being tested quantitatively. When our quant partners pulled a topline, as field was closing and the Upwords team was reviewing who to invite, we realized that two of the concepts dropped quite far to the bottom. While there may have been value in deeply understanding the reasons why those two were failing, the project team decided it was better value to drop those from the qualitative research. This iterative pause enabled us to focus more clearly on the ideas that appeared to have potential and save the client a bit of money.


It’s all about better decisions

In the end, research is all about making better informed decisions. You will never have all the answers (that’s why a marketing instinct is still so valuable), but the more insight you can get within the time and budget you have, the better equipped your team will be to make those decisions and the ones that follow.

So the next time you’re thinking you’d love to do qualitative research but don’t have time, think again.