Qualitative Research – Deep Diving Into Your Insights

What exactly is Qualitative Research? Unless you are working in the marketing, market research or its related industry, you’d never care a dime for what it means. Well, we… that’s you and me, are consumers of a plethora of products and services, ever since we were in our mother’s womb. And you didn’t think about that, huh? Thought it might interest you to explore further on this topic. And learn how you can actually play your role as a discerning consumer.

In layman’s term, qualitative research or study is primarily exploratory research. Its objective is to gain an in-depth understanding on the psychological attributes of consumers. By this, we mean your insights i.e. opinions, motivations, perceptions, habits, attitudes, values, interests and lifestyle.

Researchers prick human brains in qualitative research
The human brain consists of 100 billion cells, each one of which connects to 1,000 other brain cells making a total of 100,000 billion connections. As Norman Cousins put it, “Not even the universe with all its countless billions of galaxies represents greater wonder or complexity than the human brain.” In qualitative research studies, researchers do actually pick your brains!
Source: Pixabay

Through qualitative research, researchers from market research companies are able to uncover trends in consumers’ perceptions and opinions on a current, past or an upcoming product or service that is being studied. The subject may also be about a concept, brand identity, packaging design, advertisement, etc. The research clients or sponsors behind these studies can either be a retail store, manufacturer, or service provider. Occasionally, an association, education body, or government authority may also commission a study, when tasked to recalibrate its policies and directives.

Qualitative Research’s Methodologies

The market research’s term for a consumer is respondent. There are several methodologies to acquire the opinions and collect the data of respondents. But in general, focus group discussion is the primary format for qualitative research.

In a typical setting, a focus group consists of 4-8 respondents from a specific target market. A moderator, or interviewer, is responsible to probe, prompt and steer the group to respond honestly, and objectively to the study. The research venue/facility is usually at the market research company. Otherwise, the venue can be at a rented facility, such as a hotel, or convention centre.

For more exhaustive findings, face-to-face in-depth interviews are the preferred format. Its purpose is to build close rapport with respondents, and to study their body language. This approach essentially adds a higher level of understanding to the respondents’ answers. The interview venue is usually the respondent’s home, office, or any specific location, suitable for the respondent.

The above methodologies can function as a standalone format, or be as part of a multi-format design, depending on the needs of the research.

Making Your Opinions Matter Through Qualitative Research

Opinions and feedback matter in every study
Do you know that your opinions or feedback do really matter in every study?
Source: Pixabay

Have you ever received an unsolicited call from a bank, insurance company, telecommunication company, etc. seeking ten minutes of your time to answer some simple survey questions?  If you have acceded to the phone interview, you’re a good sport! You’ve contributed your two cents’ worth of opinion as a responsible consumer for market research.

Often, such telephone interviews offer no monetary rewards. Nor free vouchers or gifts, but merely a “thank you”, for your time and feedback. “Wait, are you telling me there are monetary rewards for my opinions?” you’d ask. Yes, there are. Through qualitative research, you get to voice your opinions, or even complaints. In other words, you are literally exercising your rights as a consumer. And the best part is, you’re paid for it!

Who Are The Qualitative Research Respondents?

The key qualifying criteria for the respondents is, they must either be the main or joint decision maker for their personal, and/or household purchase decisions.

Below are the two distinct categories of respondents :-

  1. Individual Respondent – A student, housewife, working adult, self-employed, business owner, retiree or unemployed. 
  2. SME/Corporate Respondent – An office bearer e.g. low level executive, middle level executive or top level executive/upper management.

In every study, it is imperative to have a wide cross section of consumers from diverse occupational backgrounds. Hence, regardless of your occupation, there is a study for everyone.

Respondents Selection Process No. 1 – Screening

Respondents need to fulfil research criteria for a paid survey
Eenymeenyminymoe“… The respondents are not selected like a children’s counting rhyme. They need to fulfil research criteria before they are invited to a paid survey.
Source: Pixabay

There are various channels to source for respondents. Firstly, the market research agencies will tap into their own pool of consumers in their database. Secondly, the research clients/sponsors may offer the use of their market database. Last but not least, is through third party recruiters. They’re either a registered recruitment company, or a small-time lone operator.

Researchers will specify the demographics and set quotas for respondents in every study. Examples of demographics are age, gender, language, household or personal income, occupation, marital status and education level.

Finding the right respondents for the right study can be an arduous exercise. Researchers provide the recruiters with a list of pre-survey questionnaires, also known as a screener, to screen potential respondents over the phone. During the screening process, the recruiters will also evaluate the respondents’ language proficiency and articulacy. If they don’t fare well, they will be rejected on the spot.

Respondents Selection Process No. 2 – Quality Control

QC process is a necessity to filter out fake respondents
The QC process is a necessity to filter out the ‘fake’ respondents from among the pre-qualified pool of respondents.
Source: Pixabay

Subsequent to the screening process is the Quality Control process. It’s to gauge the veracity of respondents acquired through the open source channels. By open source we mean, referrals sourced through word-of-mouth and social media platforms.

During a QC verification call, the QC personnel will ask the pre-qualified respondent some random questions from the screener. At times, they might add a trick question or two, so as to filter out disingenuous respondents.

The Cooling-Off Period For Qualitative Research

By disingenuous, we mean ‘fake’ or ‘professional’ respondents. Basically, they are those who :-

  1. Do not meet the criteria of the study but say or pretend that they do.
  2. Use not their own, but a borrowed identity.
  3. Frequently defy the minimum 6-month cooling-off period by attending multiple surveys at different research venues within that period.

To that end, most market research companies have a rule that no one can participate in a focus group more than once every six months. If found out, the reputable market research companies will then bar these regular offenders forever from future surveys.


If you’d like to find out more on how you can exercise your consumer rights through a qualitative research study, do get in touch with us today.


Find out how you can play your role as an informed respondent… here are The Do’s And Don’ts For Respondents attending a qualitative research study.

This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.

Flo KHA

About Flo KHA

Backed with a solid foundation in market research, she brings to the table a wealth of knowledge in consumerism. She knows what consumers want, even when they themselves don't, and match them to their needs and wants.

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