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The Ultimate Guide to Lean Qualitative Research

In Brief

When it comes to Market Research, a very common question that arises is what are qualitative and quantitative market research. This post aims at clarifying practically what those two key components stand for. This first part of the post focuses on Qualitative Research. This is The Ultimate Guide to Lean Qualitative Research.

Furthermore, this post goes even further by providing an actionable guide about how to use Qualitative Research in order to conduct insightful and professional lean market research.

Qualitative research, let’s start by the big picture !

A main component of lean market research is qualitative data.

Qualitative data was presented briefly during the introduction of the basic notions around lean market research.

Let’s dive a little deeper into qualitative data now.

Qualitative research is a major toolset among market research that aims at providing unstructured yet in-depth insights regarding the conducted research.

This is performed for instance by interviewing directly or indirectly the target audience.

Qualitative research can be whether primary or secondary research.

The research is qualified as qualitative when there are up to 50 respondents to a conducted survey.

Above that number, the research is qualified as quantitative.

Quantitative research Provides in depth expertize and facts.

It Complements, validates & orients the quantitative and the desk researches.

Qualitative research Brings a major value proposition to the conducted research.

Typical objectives of qualitative research are to

  • Explore attitudes and behaviors
  • Test adverts
  • Develop concepts and new products
  • Build a picture of a market

Types of Qualitative Research

The main encountered examples of qualitative research are:

  • Depth interviews.
  • Focus groups.
  • Ethnography and observation.

Depth interviews

Let’s take a deeper look at depth interviews.

Depth interviews stand for conducting an in-depth dialogue & questionnaire with a specific profile or expert.

Generally, depth interviews last about 1 hour.

Depth interviews are typically conducted in order to:

  • Avoid interference between attendees
  • Cover a considerable Geographic scatter
  • When Significant and deep comments are needed regarding a given topic
  • Track opinion evolution over time
  • Cover sensitive topics in a comfortable way for the respondent

Focus Groups

Now what about focus groups ?

Focus groups stand for recruiting a number of attendees, about 10, and animating a discussion regarding a typical subject directly related to the performed study.

The moderator or animator plays a central role in focus groups.

Typical applications of focus groups are:

  • Unravel complex processes like complex buying processes
  • Identify customer needs
  • Identify how products are used
  • Test new products
  • Explore a concept
  • Explore and identify issues of satisfaction
  • Explore perceptions of brand

Regarding planning and recruiting focus groups:

  • Between 5 and 10 members are hired for a given focus group.
  • If it’s conducted online, the hired group can reach the number of 12, 30 is also fine for bulletin style groups ie, this is the case where it’s conducted online and the discussion is opened for few days and all participants are not obliged to be there at the same time.
  • FOr conducting a consistent focus group study, it’s advised toperform the study on 3 to 4 different groups in order to double check the consistency of the focus groups outcomes and results.

Hiring respondents for focus groups can be done for free or for different kinds of incentives which is perfectly legal as well.

For instance, a typical monetary compensation for a focus group corresponds roughly to the respondents half day compensations depending on what he’s doing.

This corresponds roughly to something between $75 and $500 in developed countries.

The compensation can be non monetary as well like : offering lunch, clothes, reductions, childcare etc.

All incentives should be announced upfront in order to increase motivation, avoid not showing up and avoid feeling misled by the participants.

Ethnography and observation

As an additional example of qualitative research comes ethnography and observation.

Ethnography and observation stands for watching the natural / spontaneous behavior of the targeted subjects by avoiding any forms of interference / influence of them.

Ethnography & Observation is typically applied when:

  • The targeted subjects are impossible or dangerous to interview directly.
  • The researcher aims at avoiding adding bias to the answers through the asked questions.
  • Gathering low cost, easier & automated data: through videos, text processing, speech recognition etc.

Pros tips

  • Ethnography is a good solution for avoiding bias in the conducted research.
  • The moderator / animator of the conducted qualitative research is key in its success.
  • Ethnography is a good solution for avoiding bias in the conducted research.
  • The moderator / animator of the conducted qualitative research is key in its success.
  • Ethnography is not adapted to all types of research and should be chosen as a qualitative research only when it’s relevant.


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