Qualitative research vs. quantitative research, or simply market research
Well into the 21st century, we can categorically affirm that the relationship between consumers and brands has been redefined, if not completely then at least in such core aspects that it’s worth taking this new scenario as starting point for understanding market research institutes’ current role. Beyond accepting that the relationship between consumer and brand may be a two-way dialogue, market researchers have to deal with a complex, multivariable reality, and despite multiple reductive algorithms’ efforts, it’s difficult to predict. The future, for the moment, is an unwritten journey. For brands to navigate it successfully, market research is needed more than ever.
The consumer-citizen lives in a multi-connected way thanks to a plethora of technological devices that are evolving at the speed of sound and opening up a range of possibilities for market research. They receive constant communication of a personal and corporate origin from multiple devices. Their decision-making and personal actions are impregnated by a multifactorial array of information that market research experts must take into account.
Each social individual is currently active in multiple conversations mapping, in real time, their consumption behaviour. This forces us to fine-tune the “tool box” (methodologies and evaluation instruments) so that they can be useful components in corporate decision-making for improving manufacturers’ performance: the traditional division between qualitative and quantitative research formulas is increasingly blurred in favour of a holistic approach to market research where real-time online and offline research is practically mandatory. It’s necessary to activate behavioural, cognitive, semantic etc. evaluation processes, both through the new data oceans with their analysis tools and ethnographic market approaches in search of new niches and accurate consumer insights.
Indeed, brands must rely more and more on research processes in order to offer attractive and relevant proposals to consumers. Proposals stemming from the successful balancing of social trends (via focus groups, in-depth interviews, evaluation of consumption statistics, analysis of both qualitative and quantitative discourse) with personal customer journey itineraries (via qualitative ethnographic and anthropological work), and the competition’s activity (benchmarking, shopper marketing strategies, etc.). Be they international or local market proposals.
In this sense, it’s important for international brands to carry out global market research in a rigorous way, with teams of consultants and branding experts in each market. Global projects’ excellence must be based on the merging of local and international experts.
Large, medium or small advertisers and manufacturers competing in this intense and extensive 21st century market are highly demanding in terms of time and costs; and this is why researchers, who for the time being can’t be replaced by mathematical algorithms (someone always has to design and interpret the algorithm), have to work with the utmost focus and efficiency in their processes and be willing to co-create with their clients and consumers themselves, if their objective really is to innovate in all their areas: product innovation, packaging innovation, innovation in communication, innovation in online platforms, innovation in target segmentation, etc.
As Steve August, director of innovation for Focus Vision recently pointed out: “What really matters is how we use technology to cook up the raw ingredients into digestible consumer insights. I think that the debate about the future of market research needs to be about how best to synthesize information from different sources”.