What are the benefits of doing qualitative research? 

Lynda Thompson is a Researcher with Competitive Advantage, specialising in in-depth interviews and focus group facilitation. In this example she explains what qualitative research is and how it can be used.


Qualitative research is the collection, and analysis, of data from sources like interviews, questionnaires, focus groups and observation. It’s the type of research associated with people and words, rather than quantitative research which results in the numerical (as the name suggests!).

Qualitative research enables businesses to find out what their customers really think of them and ask questions in an open, unbiased way. It allows them to gather feedback about improvements they’d like to make and to expose the things their customers don’t understand about them.  It’s about having conversations and understanding people’s motivations rather than about gathering statistics and quantitative results (e.g. telling you that 70% of customers said they’d recommend your product to a colleague).  Qualitative research is about inviting opinion, getting deep into what you want to know and allowing people to talk. It means that businesses can understand why people make choices and do the things they do. Findings can then be confirmed with quantitative research to a much bigger respondent group.

Because it is a free-flowing conversation (although still working to a planned structure) it can uncover issues you were not aware of. This can be particularly effective in a focus group when respondents build their comments off each other.

Why is one product or service more successful than another?  

How on earth do you make sure that your sparkly, new idea will be useful, needed, and profitable?

When you’re so passionate about your idea or product how do you gather feedback without asking leading questions or asking about things that aren’t relevant to your users’ feelings about your idea?

Qualitative research allows you to delve, to ask in depth questions and can help you test theories you already have or ask customers questions about products and services that aren’t doing as well as you hoped. You can find out what people think about YOUR brand. Having an independent, unbiased researcher ask the questions really shows your customers that you want to understand and improve.

Primary research like in-depth interviews, surveys, observations and focus groups offer great chances to talk to your customers, or prospects.  A good researcher will help you define the questions you want to ask, moderate the groups, carry out interviews and analyse the resulting data and report back. As a client you can listen in or watch; or you can keep your distance, put your trust in the researcher and await the results. You still receive all the data if you then want to deep dive, but one of the benefits of paying someone to do research for you is that you can ask questions anonymously, remove your own bias and save time by having someone else carry out the project.

These are just some of the things a good qualitative researcher can find out:

*  You manufacture construction products or systems and need to establish whether designers and contractors are aware of them and know when it’s appropriate to specify them. We can find  out for you.

*  You want to understand if architects specify your brand or a competitor’s and why.

*  You need to know if that latest improvement to your product hit the mark, wasn’t even noticed or failed miserably. We can find out for you.

*  You have an idea for a product or improvement to an existing product, but you aren’t sure if it’s really needed or how users will react to it. We can investigate and report back.

*  You’ve worked hard to establish gender equality in your business. We can ask your employees what they think.

*  You want to discover whether your customer facing teams really feel empowered to do their jobs. We can ask them confidentially and feed back to you.


If you want to better understand your business opportunities through research contact Competitive Advantage to discuss your needs and propose a solution.