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Li, H. Qualitative Marketing Research. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 04 December 2023).
Li H. Qualitative Marketing Research. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed December 04, 2023.
Li, Handwiki. "Qualitative Marketing Research" Encyclopedia, (accessed December 04, 2023).
Li, H.(2022, November 03). Qualitative Marketing Research. In Encyclopedia.
Li, Handwiki. "Qualitative Marketing Research." Encyclopedia. Web. 03 November, 2022.
Qualitative Marketing Research

Qualitative marketing research involves a natural or observational examination of the philosophies that govern consumer behavior. The direction and framework of the research is often revised as new information is gained, allowing the researcher to evaluate issues and subjects in an in-depth manner. The quality of the research produced is heavily dependent on the skills of the researcher and is influenced by researcher bias.

qualitative marketing research observational

1. Data Collection

Qualitative marketing researchers collect data ranging from focus group, case study, participation observation, innovation game and individual depth interview.

1.1. Focus Group

The focus group is marketing research technique for qualitative data that involves a small group of people (6–10) that share a common set characteristics (demographics, attitudes, etc.) and participate in a discussion of predetermined topics led by a moderator. There are opportunities to conduct focus groups with the use of focus group software.[1] There are many types of focus group as well, but they always involve discussion among the group(s). The problem of the focus group is the issue of observer dependency: the results obtained are influenced by the researcher or his own reading of the group's discussion, raising questions of validity. Non-verbal cues, which may contradict the views participants articulate, are important and can easily be missed if the researcher is not familiar with visual cues, body language and other non verbal cues.[2]

1.2. Qualitative Case Study

Qualitative case study methodology provides tools for researchers to study complex phenomena within their contexts. Because it only studies one case, so it is very up-close, in-depth. It contains high levels of internal validity (the extent to which one is able to say that no other variables except the one being studied caused the result), but the external validity is low. Customer behaviour is a good example for qualitative market research.

1.3. Participation Observation

Participation observation is watching participants' behavior in real world settings without trying to manipulate their actions.[3] This method is high in external validity but low in internal validity.

1.4. Innovation Game

Innovation game refers to a form of primary market research developed by Luke Hohmann where customers play a set of directed games as a means of generating feedback about a product or service. A facilitator explains the game(s) to be played and controls the paces, monitors the participants' levels and manages the time. There are many types of innovation games, such as 20/20 vision, me and my shadow, and buy a feature.

1.5. Individual Depth Interviews

In-depth interviews, also called IDIs, have been an integral component of market research since its inception in the 1920s. This method is useful when you want detailed information about a person’s thoughts and behaviors or want to explore new issues in depth. One can get unique points from each respondent, and their answers will not be influenced by other people as in a focus group. In-depth interviews are held one-on-one between the respondent and the interview via a telephone, conducted in person, or through an online platform (increasingly common).

The primary advantage of in-depth interviews is the amount of detailed information provided as compared to other data collection methods, such as surveys. Another advantage is reaching respondents that are geographically dispersed, which cannot occur in a focus group. This method is often used to refine future research or provide context to future studies. The primary disadvantage of in-depth interviews is the time to conduct, transcribe, and analyze. As such, this method could have higher costs associated with it than other methods. [4][5]

2. Uses

Qualitative market research is often part of survey methodology, including telephone surveys and consumer satisfaction surveys. We apply the qualitative market research when:

  • New product idea generation and development
  • Investigating current or potential product/service/brand positioning and marketing strategy
  • Strengths and weaknesses of products/brands
  • Understanding dynamics of purchase decision dynamics
  • Studying reactions to advertising and public relations campaigns, other marketing communications, graphic identity/branding, package design, etc.
  • Exploring market segments, such as demographic and customer groups
  • Assessing the usability of websites or other interactive products or services
  • Understanding perceptions of a company, brand, category and product[6]

3. Differences Between Consumer and B2B Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is used in both consumer research and business-to-business (B2B) research. However, qualitative research methods are used depending on whether consumers or business decision-makers are being interviewed. In consumer research, a range of qualitative methods are used, particularly in-depth interviews, focus groups and ethnographic observation.[7].

In B2B research, focus groups and ethnographic observation are used far less frequently due to the nature of business decision-makers, and in-depth interviews are most frequently used in B2B research:[8]

  • Time-poor business decision-makers often don’t have time to attend in-person focus groups, or for observation techniques that require a lot of time to set-up
  • Many B2B decision-makers work within offices that have strict security/privacy regulations. Also, many are participating in the research in their own time, and don’t necessarily want colleagues to know they are taking part in the study. As a result, face-to-face techniques which require interviewers to attend their offices (e.g., face-to-face interviews or observation) are often not realistic.
  • The target audience for a study is often small and spread across multiple locations – getting respondents in one place for a face-to-face focus group can often be unrealistic
  • Decision-makers can often be unwilling to share confidential information in front of potential competitors, so group activities that require multiple people from the same sector don’t work.

4. Typical General Procedure

  1. Setting the question
  2. Deciding the objectives
  3. Planning research design[9]
  4. Select data collection techniques
  5. Sample design
  6. Data collection
  7. Analysis
  8. Do the report[10]

5. Advantages

  • More detailed and in-depth questions
  • Reduced cost, since the scale of this kind of research is small
  • Discovering the "why" behind certain behaviors[11]
  • Quick turnaround: the direction of the research can be changed easily

6. Disadvantages

  • Issues on confidentiality and anonymity can pose problems during presentation of findings.
  • If researcher does not have enough skills such as communication skill, the quality of research is likely to be low.
  • The sample size is relatively small, the result may not be very accurate.
  • Qualitative research produces large amounts of data which requires a tremendous amount of work and labor on the part of the researcher.[12]

7. Vs. Quantitative Marketing Research

7.1. Objective

Qualitative research is usually aimed to have an inside look about opinions or motivations, while quantitative research uses data to simplify the result.

7.2. Sample

Qualitative research usually has a smaller sample size than quantitative research due to the complexity of its data.

7.3. Data Collection

Qualitative research usually uses unstructured or semi-structured techniques to collect data, e.g. individual depth interviews or group discussions, while quantitative research only uses structured techniques such as online questionnaires, on-street or telephone interviews.

7.4. Outcome

The outcomes of qualitative marketing research are usually conclusive and cannot be used to make generalizations about the population of interest, instead developing an initial understanding and sound base for further decision making. The findings of quantitative marketing research are conclusive and usually descriptive in nature.[13]

8. Data Analysis

8.1. Coding

Coding is an interpretive technique that both organizes the data and provides a means to introduce the interpretations of it into certain quantitative methods.

8.2. Cross Tabulation

Cross tabulation divides raw data into subgroups, showing how each dependent variable changes when represented in each subgroup. This is typically the most used data analysis tool due to its ability to clarify how data variables relate to each other.


  1. "Focus Group | Marketing Research Association". Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  2. "Top Tips for Getting Great Information from Your Focus Groups [INFOGRAPHIC"] (in en-US). 
  3. Lilienfeld, Scott O.; Steven J. Lynn; Laura L. Namy; Nancy J. Woolf (2013). Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. Pearson. ISBN 978-0-205-95998-3. 
  4. "Explaining the Qualitative Marketing Research Methods". MDRG. 30 November 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018. 
  5. Boyce, Carolyn; Neale, Dr. Palena. "CONDUCTING IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS: A Guide for Designing and Conducting In-Depth Interviews for Evaluation Input". Pathfinder International. 
  6. "When to Use Qualitative Research - Qualitative Research Consultants Association". Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  7. Lawless H., Heymann H. (2010) Qualitative Consumer Research Methods., Springer, New York, NY p 379
  8. Wells, Chris (July 10, 2020). "How to Conduct B2B Qualitative Research". Adience. Retrieved 16 July 2020. 
  9. "7 Stages or Steps Involved in Marketing Research Process" (in en-US). Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  10. "Marketing Research Process: 9 Stages to Marketing Research Success - Qualtrics" (in en-US). Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  11. "The Advantages of Qualitative Research | Marketing Research Company | SmartPoint Research". Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  12. "What Are the Disadvantages of Qualitative Measurements When Doing Marketing Research?". Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  13. "Qualitative vs Quantitative Research » Snap Surveys" (in en-GB). Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
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