How it works
By Use Case
New product development
2024 US consumer trends
2024 UK consumer trends
Zero-party data revolution (US)
Zero-party data revolution (UK)
Consumer research made simple
The data you need to inform decisions
Target the consumers that matter
Get the most from your research
Smart features, simple outcomes
Track brand health and performance
Know your consumers
Test creative and track effectiveness
Analyse competitors and new markets
Scoping and new product development
Simple, accurate research for ambitious marketers
Quick, reliable data for fast-moving insights teams
Learn from Attest’s experts in the Consumer Research Academy.
Get a head start with survey templates written by our research experts.
Need help with the Attest platform? Get answers and chat with the team.
Your complete guide to quantitative vs qualitative research, and how to best use each for better business outcomes.
What’s the difference between quantitative vs qualitative research? Are you thinking about launching a new product or service, or developing new features for an existing one? Market research is the essential first move for brands, providing valuable information to guide the process and provide the highest likelihood of success.
There are two main types of research that marketers should engage in to effectively profile their customer base—quantitative and qualitative. You’ve probably heard the terms before, but do you know what they mean, or most importantly, when and where it’s best to use each type?
New to market research? Watch our intro to qualitative vs. quantitative market research below.
And read on to understand the two research methods, the type of data each produces and how you can use that to build and test concepts effectively. Good market research is always worth investing in, whether you’re a startup just beginning your journey or a bigger company competing in a wide playing field.
Qualitative research seeks more in-depth, free form answers from respondents either in person or via open-test responses.
This type of research is usually carried out with small groups and takes the form of in-person focus groups, telephone interviews or detailed surveys with free text responses. The method is used to gather anecdotal views and opinions, which inform generally rather than offer hard data.
Quantitative research, as the name suggests, is primarily about numbers. It generally involves surveying a large group of people (usually at least several hundred and often thousands), using a structured questionnaire that contains predominantly closed-ended, or forced-choice, questions.
This is so that findings may be expressed numerically, enabling companies to garner statistics upon which plans and predictions can be made.
Quantitative research enables brands to profile a target audience by measuring what proportion has certain behaviours, behavioural intentions, attitudes, and knowledge. Learn more about how to create an ideal customer profile using consumer insights.
In the planning stages for a new product or service, the quantitative method can help establish the importance of specific customer needs and validate the best product concept.
It can also be used as a deductive process to test pre-specified concepts and theories, such as, “working mothers are time-poor and find cooking a healthy meal for their family every evening a challenge.”
Quantitative research can help you answer questions such as “how many” and “how often” and is invaluable when putting together a business case before launching a new product or service, or proposing changes to existing ones.
The statistically robust results that can be derived from quantitative research are good for estimating the probability of success.
As well as helping you validate the marketplace and demand for your particular product or service, quant surveys can be used to shape your market proposition and gain understanding of how to market to your target audience. You can also run quantitative research into your competition to make sure you fully understand where you fit into your category.
You can garner data to determine things such as the best price point or places to advertise by looking at respondents’ price sensitivity or media usage.
But quantitative research is not just for the planning stage of your product or service; you can employ it further down the line to test customer satisfaction or assess the proportion of a target audience that recalls a message, for example.
Numerical (quantitative) research can measure behaviours, but it can’t necessarily tell you why customers behave as they do (or how to change that behaviour). That’s where qualitative research comes in; providing brands a more in-depth look into their customers’ psyches, with feedback right from the horse’s mouth. It helps to answer ‘why?’
It’s best used for more deeply exploring a topic or idea, when you want unprompted and unbound input rather than set answers to structured questions. Qualitative research is a primarily inductive process used to formulate theory rather than test existing ones. It helps brands to gain an insight into a target audience’s lifestyle, culture, preferences and motivations.
Like quantitative research, it can help identify customer needs. The results will be much more subjective but can be used to shape quantitative surveys that will validate the findings.
For example you may ask an open ended question ‘what is most important to you when it comes to dining out?,’ and then take the most common free-text answers, and validate them with a larger number of consumers using a quantitative survey, with fixed choice options based on the answers you got in your preliminary qual research.
You can also employ the two methods in the opposite direction – using quantitative research to gain statistics on behaviour or beliefs, and then qualitative to discover the reasons behind those behaviours or beliefs. It helps brands to better understand the context of the data.
Qualitative research can be very useful when it comes to developing brand image and marketing campaigns, since you can capture the language and imagery customers use to describe and relate to products and services in their own words.
Likewise, you can understand how people perceive a marketing message or communication piece and get their reactions to graphic identity or packaging designs.
Because qualitative research is conducted among smaller groups it’s ideal for exploring different market segments, as well as getting input from key informants who may be outside your target audience (such as industry experts).
Power your startup with quant and qual market research
Read our guide to market research for startups to unlock top strategies for long-term success with your target market.
When you design a quantitative research survey all questions must be closed-ended, with pre-defined answers. These can take a variety of forms:
Because you want results to be easily measurable, you need to think carefully about the answer options to make them as inclusive as possible and thus minimise the amount of respondents who will select “other” (but do be sure to include “other” or “don’t know” as an option).
Avoid loaded questions, which make assumptions that might not be relevant to all being surveyed, such as, “When you buy hair gel, is packaging important to you?” with “yes/no” as answer options – it may be that they don’t purchase hair gel at all and would be unable to answer truthfully. This could lead to abandoned surveys or skewed results.
Although qualitative research is less structured than quantitative, it’s still necessary to plan the topics that will be discussed and what information you aim to glean.
You should develop a set of clear and specific questions, otherwise the input will be too unmanageable. For example, asking a group of horse riders to tell you their biggest frustration in regards to their hobby is too broad a question.
Participants will struggle to answer and the researcher will struggle to draw meaningful data. Work instead on narrowing it down to, for example, their biggest frustrations with grooming or with feeding.
Design your questions so they are open-ended and cannot be answered with a simple “yes or no” – the point of qualitative research is obtain more in-depth understanding. Open-ended questions might start:
Generally, you’re aiming for more than a one-word answer; you want to probe the thoughts, beliefs and emotions of the participants. This will help you understand their behaviours.
Qualitative research is also useful for obtaining unprompted recall, so you might ask participants to think of a brand they’ve seen advertised on the TV recently and name it.
Qualitative research is not restricted to in-person interviews; it can be carried out via digital survey by using free-text responses.
Get qualitative and quantitative insights from market research tools
For real customer insights, you need to use the right tools—that’s why we created a list of top market research software.
Surveying tools should come with a range of options to help you work with the data, such as cross-tabbing and filters which enable you to observe answers by demographic combinations (variables). You can also export data to Excel where you can use features such as pivot tables and descriptive statistics.
There are three core types of analysis:
To help you visualise the results, you can use data visualisation tools which take your data and put it into graphs and charts…or you could simply use Attest! Meanwhile, you can utilise Excel’s Prediction Calculator tool to create a scorecard that can be used to evaluate options or risk (probability).
Qualitative research results cannot be analysed in the same way as quantitative data or expressed as percentages; rather the output should be thought of as themes.
You can organise the results using coding. In coding, you assign a word, phrase, or number to each category, such as “pricing” or “barriers to entry”. You then go through all of your data in a systematic way and “code” ideas, concepts and themes as they fit categories.
Another way to get a feel for the overall themes is to use a basic text analysis tool, which allows you to find the most frequent phrases and frequencies of words. Or use more sophisticated software to mine text for themes, alongside analysing for sentiment and subjectivity.
To see keywords visually depicted, use a wordcloud generator – simply paste text or upload a document to generate a graphic which illustrates the frequency of words by giving them more or less prominence in the design.
Market research has a dozen uses, from helping you calculate market size for new product development to helping your team understand customer needs. Quantitative and qualitative research both have their place a valuable tools for market research, and a mix of both should be carried out whenever you’re extending product lines or launching something new.
Both methods can work hand-in-hand; brands can use qualitative research for developing concepts and theories, and quantitative for testing pre-existing ones.
You can also use free-form qualitative research to guide the creation of more structured qualitative surveys. And following quantitative surveys, turn to qualitative to better understand the context of the responses!
Get started with our market analysis survey template
Our flexible market analysis template makes gathering consumer data simple with easy-to-digest insights.
Senior Content Writer
Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 125 million global consumers. She also likes cake.
6 min read
2 min read
10 min read
Fill in your email and we’ll drop fresh insights and events info into your inbox each week.
* I agree to receive communications from Attest.
You're now subscribed to our mailing list to receive exciting news, reports, and other
Thank you for registering. Please keep an eye on your emails for further information.