Dig Deeper Than Data
By Noel van Aartrijk
Over the last several years, marketers have been dialed in on “big data,” using the massive amounts of quantitative information available to target the specific needs of their customer base. As companies look to find more efficient and cost-effective ways of collecting data for decision-making, where does that leave high-quality qualitative learning? When compared to these slick new numbers-based platforms, the notion of a “focus group” sounds traditional at best, archaic at worst. Can qualitative, in-person discussion groups really stack up? Yes, and here’s why.
Quality Qualitative Research Uncovers the Why
While big data is being leveraged in immeasurable ways, there are still some shortcomings we can’t forget about. We’ve heard this before, but it’s easy to get lost in the analytics abyss and start treating your customer like a number. More importantly, placing sole emphasis on the data can’t project future opportunities or future needs of customers. Sure, it can show you who, what, where, when (which is a lot!) — but cannot dig any deeper to hit that critical “why.”
Quality Qualitative Research Can Uncover Hidden Opportunity
No online tool, survey or database can ever replace getting people together in a room, hopped-up on brainstorming or ideating new solutions for a business. Your most creative, articulate consumers love to be consulted and want to contribute fresh thinking. Methods such as co-creation workshops or immersion sessions with your consumers can spark new ideas within your company that can make a positive, loyalty-building impact on the customer journey.
Quality Qualitative Research Can Reinvigorate Your Employees
Qualitative research brings the customer to life to your employees, and everyone working at your company should have this “introduction.” Invite interns, junior-level, mid-level, and top executives to look up from the numbers on a page and meet the people your company is serving and supporting. These qualitative sessions can uncover the many dimensions of your customer, and will inspire those within your company to act and think more empathetically.
Quality Qualitative Research Doesn’t Have a Stop-and-End Point
It’s common that qualitative projects are only considered on an annual basis, and quantitative methods step in as the continual learning piece. Instead of focusing on the annual box-check of a qualitative customer research project, think instead about how you can infuse customer-learning opportunities on an ongoing basis for your internal team.
There’s no doubt that vast, rich data sets have a vital purpose and are here to stay. So long as we remember that quantitative and qualitative research can and should work in tandem for a complete customer portrait.
What’s your favorite way to research your customer base? When’s the last time you conducted consumer research?
Interested in learning more about integrating big data and qualitative research methods? Check out Quirk’s Marketing Research Review, a hub for practical application of marketing research in all of its beautiful forms.