What is quantitative research?

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Quantitative research is an important part of market research that relies on hard facts and numerical data to gain as objective a picture of people’s opinions as possible.

It’s different from qualitative research in a number of important ways and is a highly useful tool for researchers.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into quantitative research, why it’s important, and how to use it effectively.

How is it different from qualitative research?

Although they’re both extremely useful, there are a number of key differences between quantitative and qualitative market research strategies. A solid market research strategy will make use of both qualitative and quantitative research.

  • Quantitative research relies on  gathering numerical data points. Qualitative research on the other hand, as the name suggests, seeks to gather qualitative data by speaking to people in individual or group settings. 
  • Quantitative research normally uses closed questions, while qualitative research uses open questions more frequently.
  • Quantitative research is great for establishing trends and patterns of behavior, whereas qualitative methods are great for explaining the “why” behind them.

Why is quantitative research useful?

Quantitative research has a crucial role to play in any market research strategy for a range of reasons:

  • It enables you to conduct research at scale
  • When quantitative research is conducted in a representative way, it can reveal insights about broader groups of people or the population as a whole
  • It enables us to easily compare different groups (e.g. by age, gender or market) to understand similarities or differences 
  • It can help businesses understand the size of a new opportunity 
  •  It can be helpful for reducing a complex problem or topic to a limited number of variables

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Quantitative research data collection methods

When collecting the data you need for quantitative research, you have a number of possibilities available to you. Each has its own pros and cons, and it might be best to use a mix. Here are some of the main ones:

Survey research

This involves sending out surveys to your target audience to collect information, before statistically analyzing the results to draw conclusions and insights. It’s a great way to better understand your target customers or explore a new market and can be turned around quickly. 

There are a number of different ways of conducting services, such as:

  • Email — this is a quick way of reaching a large number of people and can be more affordable than the other methods described below.
  • Phone — not everyone has access to the internet so if you’re looking to reach a particular demographic that may struggle to engage in this way (e.g. older consumers) telephone can be a better approach. That said, it can be expensive and time-consuming.
  • Post — as with the phone, you can reach a wide segment of the population, but it’s expensive and takes a long time. As organizations look to identify and react to changes in consumer behavior at speed, postal surveys have become somewhat outdated. 
  • In-person — in some instances it makes sense to conduct quantitative research in person. Examples of this include intercepts where you need to collect quantitative data about the customer experience in the moment or taste tests or central location tests, where you need consumers to physically interact with a product to provide useful feedback. Conducting research in this way can be expensive and logistically challenging to organize and carry out.

Survey questions for quantitative research usually include closed questions, rather than the open questions used in qualitative research.. For example, instead of asking

“How do you feel about our delivery policy?”

You might ask…

“How satisfied are you with our delivery policy? “Very satisfied / Satisfied / Don’t Know / Dissatisfied / Very Dissatisfied” 

This way, you’ll gain data which can be categorized and analyzed in a quantitative, numbers-based way.

Analyzing results

Once you have your results, the next step — and one of the most important overall — is to categorize and analyze them.

There are many ways to do this. One powerful method is cross-tabulation, where you separate your results into categories based on demographic subgroups. For example, of the people who answered ‘yes’ to a question, how many of them were business leaders and how many were entry-level employees?

You’ll also need to take time to clean the data (for example removing people who sped through the survey, selecting the same answer) to make sure you can confidently draw conclusions. This can all be taken care of by the right team of experts.

The importance of quantitative research

Quantitative research is a powerful tool for anyone looking to learn more about their market and customers. It allows you to gain reliable, objective insights from data and clearly understand trends and patterns.

Where quantitative research falls short is in explaining the ‘why’. This is where you need to turn to other methods, like qualitative research, where you’ll actually talk to your audience and delve into the more subjective factors driving their decision-making.

At Kadence, it’s our job to help you with every aspect of your research strategy. We’ve done this with countless businesses, and we’d love to do it with you. To find out more, get in touch with us.

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