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The best marketing research is quantitative or qualitative in nature?

Many marketing researchers have their favorite research approaches or techniques. Some researchers maintain that the only way to really learn about consumers or brands in through qualitative research. Others content that the only defensible form of marketing research uses quantitative measures. Take a position: the best marketing research is quantitative in nature versus the best marketing research is qualitative in nature.

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Question asked by abiral_joshi

Top comments (6)

angel profile image
Angel Paudel

Please note that this differs from person to person and this is just what I feel.

Marketing research gives us an idea about the requirements of the customers. At times, a company asks about the feelings of the people like by asking them an open-ended question such as "How would you define your experience with service you were offered?” These form of questions takes into account the opinions of the people and are regarded as a qualitative form of research. The other form of research is quantitative deals mostly with the numbers like asking different questions such as to rate the service from 1-10 (Bryman, 2006).

Like two sides of the coin, quantitative and qualitative research both has its own merits and demerits. As marketers, if I’m asked to choose between these two, I would primarily focus on what type of information is needed. I would go with qualitative if the research requires in-depth, detailed insights while I’ll choose the opposite if the research demands a high volume of representative data which are measurable. I’ll also take into account the required skills, time and money to make a selection. Having said all those, I would stick with qualitative research if I’ve to choose it in general.

Let us use an example of a café to look further on my choice of qualitative research over quantitative. This café is located in the prime location with lots of people living nearby. Named as ABC Café, it specializes in selling high-quality momos. The problem with the café is decreasing sales as a result of less and less customer visiting it. The research needs to done to identify why the customers are choosing other outlets over it, which will help make decisions to turn things around. With the use of qualitative research, a select group of customers could be invited for a focus group interview where the customers can share their experiences, what they liked and disliked about the café, food and everything else required. This can be done with the involvement of a very small number of selective people and gives a picture of what needs to be continued and what needs to be improved (Mason, 2005). While if the quantitative research was to be used, it would require a large number of people and includes pre-defined answers for correspondence to choose between (Hiatt, 1986). It includes the scale of the satisfaction of the customers with regard to the service they received. These numbers won’t help the organization get to the root of the issues which can be done with the use of qualitative research also by asking open-ended questions and understanding the feelings, motivation, and preferences of the customers. This form of research is also a lot less expensive than quantitative research due to lesser time and people required to complete the research.

Furthermore, under qualitative research, we operate focusing on a wider angle as opposed to testing just a selected hypothesis. This under qualitative research helps to look at the entire phenomena to understand the problems or the situation with more clarity rather than just focusing on a certain hypothesis which may or may not be true. I like qualitative research more as they allow us to focus on how and why certain social phenomena occur. Like in most of the American and European nations, crossing the main streets or walking on one are considered to be jaywalking and is a punishable offense. If we are to conduct a qualitative research on jaywalking, we can explain why certain people jaywalk while other don’t rather than just saying that people do jaywalk. If we were to do the same research using quantitative research, it would have just given the figures of people jaywalking rather than why they do so.

To conclude, I would say that qualitative research expresses empathetic understanding while also explaining findings from the quantitative study by providing a wealth of in-depth information. Thus, I choose qualitative research over quantitative research for the reasons as stated above.


Bryman, A. (2006). Integrating quantitative and qualitative research: how is it done?. Qualitative Research, 6 (1).

Hiatt, J. F. (1986). Spirituality, medicine, and healing. Southern Medical Journal, 79, 736-743.

Mason, P. (2005). Visual data in applied qualitative research: lessons from experience. Qualitative Research, 5 (3).

ncitujjwal profile image

The reason I think that qualitative research is better than quantities research is that qualitative research is an in-depth exploration of what people think, feel or do and, crucially why. If you want to know why your customers behave as they do and what barriers there may be to their changing the behavior, you would use qualitative research to explore those issue. Qualitative research does not give statistically robust finding.

Qualitative research is based on opinions, attitudes, beliefs, and intentions. This kind of research deals with a question such as "why”? "Would”? Or "How”? Qualitative research aims to understand why customers behave in a certain way to how they may respond to a new product. Given that these opinions are often obtained from small numbers of people, the findings are not necessarily statistically valid (McQuarrie & Edward, 2017). However, such data can be highlight potential issues which can be explored in quantities research. Focus group and interviews are common methods used collect qualitative data. This kind of data is often revealing and useful, but it is costly and time - consuming to collect, particularly for a startup or small business.

The main objective of doing qualitative research is to enhance our capacity to conceptualize, design, and conduct qualitative research in the marketing management. First qualitative research is a strategy for systematic collection, organization, and interpretation of textual information (Leslie, 2017). We use the word strategy to collect the fact, the qualitative research question is thoughtful, deliberate, conceived up with the border content to context with the relative strength and limitation of the qualitative method. The second thing is to use an inductive approach to generate novel insights into a phenomenon that is different to measure quantitatively. It’s systematic, It’s rather realizing on a setup established, well defined, articulated methodologies for the collecting, organizing and analyzing the qualitative data.

The qualitative method can do a couple of things too broad markets, the first thing generating a comprehensive description of process, mechanism, and setting. The qualitative and quantitates methods really exist along continue of measurement that each has respective strength and limitation.

The five-module on the series talk more about the primary methodology of qualitative research are (Leslie, 2017):

  • Qualitative method in term of approach is inductive in nature . So, when not coming to research question with any of very hypothesis and testing rather working from the ground up.

  • Qualitative research in term of the goal is to achieve the depth of understanding. So, looking very deeper way to unpack critical facts about given phenomenon. We may be interested in generating the hypothesis that can be done a tested in the qualitative study.

  • Qualitative research work across a natural setting . It’s not experimental, it’s not controlled does not happen in a research lab rather than often interested in a feature on the natural environment.

  • Sampling approach in qualitative research is purposeful in nature

  • Data collection in the qualitative method is done by interviewing guys, various kinds of observation tools is a much more open-ended than structured service and instrument we used in qualitative studies.

  • Lastly, data analysis is iterative, it’s a process of interpreting the data goes out the field collecting data interpreting that going back out the field this is a contrast in our an approach.

In conclusion, qualitative methods can provide unique contributions to marketing and market study. There are rigorous and widely accepted procedures for study design, sampling, data collection and data analysis in qualitative research. And the remaining the five module which we already discussed these are an interview and focused grouped and data analysis in the context.

Leslie, C. (2017). Fundamental of Qualitative and research methods. Yale Global Management & Leadership Institute .

McQuarrie, E., & Edward, T. (2017). The market research toolbox. A concise guide for the beginner, 15-17.

sushant profile image

A market is full of uncertainties due to its dynamic nature so, an effort to understand it, by studying or analyzing the factor prominent in market decision making, is called Marketing Research. Marketing Research is defined as the "Systematic design, collection, analysis and reporting of data and finding relevant to a specific marketing situation facing the company" (Kotler, Keller, Koshy, & Jha, 2009). To make a marketing decision, different kind of data is required to be collected from the customer and the methods used are: Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research.

Qualitative research tries to get detailed information on the consumer behavior. It tries to figure out the image of a product/brand perceived by individuals and further tries to understand the underlying motivation behind such perceived image/purchase decision. Bellenger, Bernhardt and Goldstucker (2011, pp. 2-6) tries to support Qualitative research to be accurate, because this type of research being derieved from the branch of Behavioral science, and can understand customers more clearly. Qualitative research is subjective in nature, mostly including open end questions, or the researcher studies under a natural setting. So, it is called to be "as accurate as possible in verbal terms" not just giving some number or measurement (Nevid & Maria, 1999). For example, the company asks about their product or service; may be they ask for aspirations regarding the products, or what part of the product is fascinating? Or which color do they want to see? Or which flavor they would like to taste? Etc. Facebook, Gmail or some product often asks us suggestions for upgrading. These can be called as an example of Qualitative research.

Quantitative research on the other hand tries to quantify the research outcomes and systematically analyze the numbers. Generally this type of research is carefully prepared and executed over some set number of participants. According to Creswell (2003, p. 18), in quantitative research, the researcher tries to test a theory by forming one hypothesis and testing it by collection of data, either to support or reject the hypothesis . For e.g.: the researcher has a hypothesis that "90%people know about Dove shampoo", then develops survey tools and goes to ask people if they know something about it. His findings are presented on a systematic form and checked if the preconceived hypothesis was correct or not. This type of approach is appropriate to understand the actual market by numbers/volume, i.e. say in the survey 90% of people didn’t know about Dove but responded desire of having a Shampoo with moisturizer than this survey shows the need of product like Dove in market. Similarly, this approach is appropriate for cause and effect relationship.

The preference of Qualitative Vs Quantitative depends purely upon the nature of the survey and resource limits. Depending upon the situation, I would prefer both approaches. Quantitative resource needs time for planning and execution. It is often the expensive research. So, given the economic and time limits, I would prefer Qualitative approach but if the resource and time permits, I would prefer quantitative research as it gives real facts and figures.

On other hand, the data given on qualitative approach is very personalized and extracted through a personal approach. Hence they bear more credibility than quantitative approach. “Whereas quantitatively data deals with numbers, qualitative data deals with meanings. Meanings are mediated mainly through language and action” (Dey, 1993, p. 11). I need to find the reasons behind buying, what changes might motivate the customers to change buying decision, how does they perceive of the product etc subjective aspect regarding the product’s value and innovation, I would again choose qualitative approach.

But, for the figurative estimates of demand, or any internal estimates demanding figures, Quantitative approach is preferable. For example, survey on percentage of people knowing a brand/ using a product or information/awareness regarding a market segment or the demand assessment of any product. Quantitative approach provides quantitative assessment (mostly on percentage) of a sample segment, which helps in estimating the overall quantitative demand of the population or target market.


Bellenger, D. K., Bernhardt, K. L., & Goldstucker, J. L. (2011). Qualitative Research in Marketing. Chicago: Marketing Classic Press.

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.

Dey, I. (1993). Qualitative Data Analysis. London: Taylor and Fransis group.

Kotler, P., Keller, K. L., Koshy, A., & Jha, M. (2009). Marketing Management: A South Asian Perspective (13 ed.). Noida: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Nevid, J. S., & Maria, N. L. (1999). Multicultural issues in qualitative research. ProQuest Psychology Journals , 16(4) , 305-325.

shantamilan profile image

Many marketing researchers have their favorite research approaches or techniques. Some researchers maintain that the only way to really learn about consumers or brands in through qualitative research. Others content that the only defensible form of marketing research uses quantitative measures. Take a position: the best marketing research is quantitative in nature versus the best marketing research is qualitative in nature.

Of the two marketing research, I prefer qualitative over the quantitative. The aim of both the research method is focused on one thing and that is to understand the past and present scenarios and plan for action for future based on these interpretations. One survey choses a more detailed and focused approach while the other uses a wider survey approach.

Reason for choosing Qualitative Survey:

A recent experience that I had in my work, related to a small trial project in Chinchu of Surkhet district, which was launched last year focusing on post-harvest marketing of vegetable products. To explain a little about it, what we did was, we calculated the average rate of a few vegetables from the daily rate in Chinchu and Birendranagar markets of Surkhet district for the past 5 years and represented it with a line graph. Let us take cabbage as an example. The data clearly showed that the price of cabbage would be the lowest in the months of April, May and June and the highest in Nov - Jan. The reason for this was that it was the season for the vegetable harvest and when everyone planted and produced cabbage in those months there was higher supply resulting in decrease in the price. So we proposed for a zero energy storage trial in the village that would store the extra produce for at least 2-3 months gaining more price and reducing stress sale. But what we found in the recent visit in May 2018 was that they had received an unexpected high price in the month of April-May. The reason for it was that most people did not want to plant cabbage with such unattractive price in those months. This led to the program beneficiaries’ harvested cabbage receiving prices as high as Rs. 30/kg. What we can see from this example is that, not understanding the qualitative aspect that included the behavior of the people (competitors) in the area, our quantitative forecast and interpretation of the data came out to be wrong.

Subjective analysis:

Qualitative survey, even though it is a little inductive, it studies behavior, relation and perception of the customers. As we have learned, consumers’ perception greatly affects the behavior for purchase. We should not focus on the need and want but rather on the demand. Even though the quantitative demand can show what the general purchasing habit of the customers are it cannot understand the perceptual and behavioral aspect that has led to the purchase of those items. If our survey is based on quantitative aspect and huge amount of capital is invested based on it, what will happen if the perception or the behavior of the customers change overnight to a totally other side of our analysis? Thus the objective of qualitative research has a more exploring, discovering, constructing, understanding and interpreting social interaction. (Johnson & Christensen, 2008, p. 34) It also focuses and examines the breadth and depth of a phenomenon through wider angles. It is subjective and has multiple realities. (Lichtman, 2006, pp. 7-8)

Data collection:

The data collection is done through questioners, interviews or focus group discussions. They directly converse with the customers and get feedback from them. This helps to get the actual data straight from the source eliminating possibilities of errors as received from secondary data. "It might be objected that ‘using’ a technique is just a manner of speech. But the words people use are the best guide we have to what they mean. Moreover, words shape, as well as express, what people understand, so new researchers who follow guidance to ‘use’ a technique might be less likely to seek to justify the quality of their work in a more robust way. (Salmon, 2003)”

Cost Efficient:

The groups selected are small in this survey and catered to a focused phenomenon. It is cheaper than quantitative where a larger group is required that can need more cost.

These are some of the reasons why I believe qualitative research is better than quantitative method.

Johnson, B., & Christensen, L. (2008). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and. Thousand Oaks , 34.

Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative research in education: A user’s guide. Thousand Oaks, 7-8.

Salmon, P. (2003, Jan). How do we recognise good research? Psychologist, p. 4. Retrieved from search.proquest.com/docview/211811...

ujjwalpoudel profile image

Kotler & Keller (2016), in their book Marketing Management, market research for any product or service of a company is the process of assessing the viability of a new good or service through research conducted directly with the consumer which allows a company to discover the target market and record opinions and other input from consumers regarding interest in the product. Not only at the time of the product’s entry in the market but also at the time when the product is established in the market and company wishes to come up with new product or so, and even for knowing the review about the product in the market, research can be conducted.

To extract and quantify the perceptions, attitudes, behaviour, opinions and insightful information about the consumer’s needs, wants, desire and their taste and preference marketers majorly deploys two marketing research technique and they are qualitative and quantitative research measures. Quantitative research is generally numeric in nature and can be statically quantified, measured, analyzed using maximum, minimum, average (mean, median, mode), standard deviation (low or high risk in the market), variance, and slope (amount and speed of change). Qualitative measure is descriptive in characteristics and cannot be statically analyzed. Both of the research measures are trending and have their own benefits to the respective marketers of varied companies as per their research needs and orientation.

Qualitative research is generally used to gain an idea or understand any situation, opinions or motivation (Malterud, 2001). These types of research are primarily exploratory research. It gives the in-depth information about any cases you are doing research in. Data collection in this type of research include the methodologies those are flexible. In-depth interviews, focus groups, and reviews for documents include in this type of method. For instance, if the marketer or company wants to acquire information regarding how or why customer buys, or why they prefer a particular product, package, design then qualitative research is invariably used. Basically, collection, analysis, interpretation and reporting of such research helps marketer to understand the opinions or perceptions, feedbacks, feelings and emotions of consumers towards specific formulated research questions.

Quantitative research is essential for providing a broad base of insight on which typically a final course of action is recommended. It gives more objective result as it provides observed effects of a program on a problem or condition. This tends to give a more graphical representation of what the customers prefer with the help of the bar charts, pie charts and graphs. It is a number based research where the statistical data are used for the research purpose. These methods include various forms of surveys: online surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys and kiosk surveys, face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls, and systematic observations (Koyhari, 2004).

Both qualitative and quantitative measures of research are extensively deployed by organization as per their nature of research criteria or orientation. Therefore, both research techniques are equally important for most of the organization as they can conduct market research as per the outcome or information they want. They have their own distinct effectiveness and advantages which invariably facilitate marketer in making crucial marketing or business decision.


Kothari, C. R. (2004). Research methodology: Methods and techniques . New Age International.

Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2016). Marketing Management . Boston: Pearson.

Malterud, K. (2001). Qualitative research: standards, challenges, and guidelines. The lancet, 358 (9280), 483-488.

dipadhungana profile image

A marketing manager has to make several decisions each day that have significant impact on the sales of company. These decisions cannot be based on assumptions. They need to be backed up by data collected through reliable source. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. So marketing research is important to prevent the trouble that may arise because of the things we believe we know. Thus marketing research can be defined as the systematic and objective process of generating information for helping in marketing decision (Kotler & Keller, 2016).

Depending upon the need, companies use qualitative, quantitative or mixed research to collect required information. In my opinion, the best marketing research is qualitative research because of the following reasons:

It focuses on discovering and exploring the experiences, perspectives and thoughts of people unlike quantitative research that focuses only on numbers and figures (Harwell).

It typically does not have hypothesis. The questions, data collection and data analysis is not based on preconceived notion that reduces chances of biasness while quantitative research is conducted to test a certain hypothesis (Elkatawneh, 2016).

Qualitative research saves time and effort because the sample size is smaller compared to quantitative research.

The data is collected through case studies, interviews, ethnographic works that assists in study of the behavior in natural setting. So there is less chance of result being manipulated. On the other hand, quantitative research is conducted on controlled setting and natural behavior cannot be examined. The setting can be modified or manipulated to get the intended result (Harwell).

Quantitative research is objective and aims on getting a single reality so other forces except addressed by the questions are ignored. But in reality there are multiple realities and qualitative research being subjective in nature addresses those (Johnson & Christensen, 2008).

Quantitative data provides result on numbers and numbers are decisive while qualitative research provides interpretation on a topic of interests (Harwell).

In conclusion, both qualitative and quantitative research have their own benefits and limitations. It is like whether to judge competency, intelligence and capability of the students solely based on the marks they get or consider factors other than the marks while analyzing the students. However, there is not any right or wrong method of conducting research. The selection of the research methodology is based on the purpose of the research and the desired outcome.

Elkatawneh, H. H. (2016). Comparing Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches . SSRN Electronic Journal .

Harwell, M. R. (n.d.). Research Design in Qualitative/Quantitative/Mixed Methods.

Johnson, B., & Christensen, L. (2008). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. Thousand Oaks .

Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2016). Marketing Management. London: Pearson.