What is Qualitative Market Research?

Have you carried out market research is a common question asked of anyone launching a new service or product and by this they usually mean qualitative research.

However, just what is qualitative research, how is it carried out and how can it be implemented? In this article, we try to answer those questions. 

In the spirit of qualitative research we really should then ask for your opinion on whether the post worked because that is the aim of qualitative research.

Qualitative research seeks the opinions of individuals, the other form of research typically referred to – quantitative – instead looks at larger trends. 

While quantitative research might answer a question such as what percentage of those surveyed preferred option ‘a’ as opposed to option ‘b’, qualitative seeks to provide detailed feedback from each participant.

Qualitative research seeks in-depth answers to specific questions, these might be in the form of:

  • What do you think of this product (or concept for a product)
  • What do you like / dislike about it
  • Tell us your thoughts on rival products
  • What would stop you from buying this product / using this service
  • What would be your expectations from this product / service

The core aim of this qualitative market research is to garner honest opinions. This provides insights that can then be used to shape product or service development, yet in a way that avoids simply trying to appease all feedback.

Trusting the research and allowing it to help shape decisions is important – you have perhaps seen the Apprentice in which seemingly every episode a team carries out interviews with members of the public to get views on their potential product. 

This is qualitative feedback, even if arranged in a slightly haphazard way – however quality feedback is then often ignored. ‘Everyone loved it’… Did they? Really?


Methods for Qualitative Market Research

The aim is to get quality feedback but how is this achieved by a qualitative market research agency like Acumen? You could simply ask people on the street, but, pressed for time and with no motivation to give real thought their answers might be lacking in thought. Weight could be given to top-of-the-head opinions.

Experts in undertaking qualitative market research have a range of tactics at their disposal, choosing, among other options:


In-depth interviews. 

These are typically one-on-one interviews with an individual to get their thoughts on the product or service.

Questions are often open-ended allowing the person being interviewed the chance to get across what they deem important without being led. If the questions are too limited the session can have a danger of simply reinforcing preconceptions without allowing the potential for new areas to be explored.

These interviews can be carried out with people of different ages and social groups, giving insight into a broad cross section of those you are hoping will use the service or product.


Focus Groups

A small group, often fewer than 10 participants discuss a topic and specific questions. A facilitator will help to keep the session on track and also ensure that participants have the ability to raise points without the louder personalities dominating.

Creating the correct blend within this focus group is important – too narrow a mix and it can become an echo chamber, too many disparate personalities and views and it can be hard for points to emerge.

Not every focus group has to cover the same areas, for instance on a product launch one focus group might feature those aged 18 to 30, another those aged 40+ – while some topics will be common ground others might be specific to each group.


Online Communities

Similar in some ways to focus groups, online communities can be set up, this making it easy to get a range of views without the requirement for people to travel and for workshop space to be found.

For a small business or fledgling project this can be a huge advantage.

Online communities can also lead to insight that is extremely honest, some participants will feel more comfortable giving feedback, especially negative feedback, if they are online rather than face-to-face with others involved in the project.

Those in online communities still have to be sourced carefully of course, as anyone who has used social media knows, there are a lot of options out there, perhaps not all equally valid.


In-home research

Depending on the requirements of qualitative market research, in-home analysis can be of great benefit.

In a one-to-one interview or a group setting people might give one answer – delivered honestly – but does it match the reality of how they use products at home? 

In the example of technology, people might say they have few issues using the smart TV or voice technology, but are they quite so confident when viewed using these products?


Other methods

Experienced market research experts have other methods too – these might include customer and stakeholder events, accompanied shops whereby a member of the research team would observe shopping patterns, and PhotoEthnography whereby the researcher takes pictures and videos of user participant instead of asking them questions. 

(Don’t miss our page on why qualitative research is important)


Qualitative Market Research by Acumen

Part of the Fuller Research Group, Acumen seek to work in partnership with clients to provide ongoing value rather than simply operating on a project-by-project basis.

We are experts in the areas of market research fieldwork and pioneer new ways of recruitment, this including understanding the different ways social groups engage and interact – finding the best methods for gaining quality feedback from each different type of demographic.

With qualitative research, we work on creating a full schedule as soon as we receive your brief, delivering feedback to your project within your timeframes and on budget.

Our service includes:

  • Creating all documentation, including screening questionnaires and supporting paperwork.
  • Using our network of over 700 recruiters to find the participants you need and generate the quality of feedback you require
  • Providing every client with a dedicated project manager
  • Sourcing all venues and, as required, staff members to assist on the day
  • Verifying every person recruited for reach through Acumonitor. We also carry out pre-checks to ensure participants meet the research criteria.
  • Providing you with full details of those who will be taking part in the qualitative research.


If you would like to discuss your qualitative research requirements, please call us on 0161 234 9940 or use our Contact Form.