The Value of Qualitative Research in a Post-Pandemic World

What’s better, qualitative or quantitative research?

This shouldn’t be a question we ever ask. Both are critical in gathering the insights we need to create successful marketing plans and executions when the right tool is matched to the research objectives.

Yet many marketing professionals, sometimes aided and abetted by insights departments, have asked this question and concluded that “if it’s not a quantified fact, I can’t use it.” With the rise of technology and big data, they reason, there is so much information out there – reliable, quantified information – that qualitative work is not just unreliable but superfluous.

Ridiculous. Nothing gets to the “why” in marketing as well as qualitative research. When managed correctly, in-the-moment spontaneous discussions can lead to new and exciting territory, providing the “breakthroughs” that we crave as marketers. Moreover, qualitative work reveals the passion people have for brands and ideas.

I’ve written extensively about the many benefits of qualitative work over the years, so I was please to see this article in a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal, Why Companies Shouldn’t Give Up on Focus Groups. The piece makes a strong case for qualitative while also laying out the pitfalls of Big Data.

With the economy starting to boom and the pandemic shifting to a more manageable endemic in most states, now is an ideal time to get back out talking to people, face-to-face. Not digital work, but live, in-person interviews, ethnographies and focus groups.

With so many unknowns in our brave new post-pandemic world, it’s time we get intimately reacquainted with our consumers. The fundamental issues of how we live, work, eat, socialize and more are all in flux. It’s a big puzzle with lots of moving, seemingly unrelated parts that is best understood by looking consumers in the eye and digging deep into their emotional lives.

Only qualitative can do this.

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