Are you thinking of conducting qualitative research for your brand, but aren’t sure of the benefits? Then read our latest blog from our associate consultant, the hugely talented Mark Speed – previous Mori partner and MD of IFF research – on the merits on qual data.

There are two types of research techniques and while many often think of quantitative research as the default approach, arguing that big numbers must be better – surely a quantitative survey of a sample of 1,000 must be more accurate than a qualitative survey of 20?  Actually, it simply has a different purpose. The two types of research are summarised here. 

  • Quantitative research surveys a representative sample of a larger number of respondents (Usually consumers or businesspeople or experts) asking the same questions using a questionnaire consistently administered during each interview.
  • Qualitative research surveys a cross-sectional sample (i.e. it covers a broad sample of people but not a representative one) in depth using a discussion guide with probing questions administered by a skilled qualitative interviewer who will follow-up with probing depth ‘why?’ questions

Both approaches are valid and well-used research techniques that when used together can provide a very powerful research tool that will not only work out how many people take actions, it can also reveal the thinking and reasoning behind why people take those actions.

Quantitative findings can be in danger of giving lots of numbers and percentages while qualitative findings can provide a rich depth of motivations therefore giving useful and ‘human’ insight. At the risk of using an allegory which may upset vegans, qualitative findings provide the flesh on the quantitative bones. The reporting from a qualitative survey can provide much more actionable insight than a pure quantitative survey ever can.

Qualitative research can also provide insightful case studies looking at why certain types of people act in particular ways and provide a broad picture of the different motivations affecting different types of people. 

Qualitative research can be used at the start of a research project to explore all the issues important to people and can be helpful in the design of a quantitative questionnaire for a follow-up.   

Or the research can run the other way round and qualitative can answer questions raised by an initial quantitative approach, exploring and probing with the ‘why’ questions which cannot be done through quantitative alone.  Together they provide a more complete and useful set of findings, offering better value for money, and bringing the data to life.

In conclusion –  a combination of both techniques can provide a very valuable and cost effective solution – with the quantitative bones providing the ‘what’ information in the research skeleton and the qualitative findings providing that vital meat to explain the whys giving a clear direction forward.

In all cases you should, of course, use skilled independent researchers who fully understanding your research needs and objectives. So you can ensure they deliver a report that you can use and action over time, as well as promoting your organisation too.

If you want to talk to one of our research experts about your next research project, email us at

Mark Speed Associate Consultant at Perspectus Global and Founder of xSpeediency