Quantitative market research is one of the traditional pillars of market research and an essential tool in understanding audience perceptions, behaviours, and relationships with your brand.
The success of your quantitative market research will depend on the questions you ask, the sample size, but also importantly how you use the data with other market research methods to provide valuable marketing insights. It’s not as simple as “just asking questions” – how you ask them, in what order, the number of them, the type of question and most importantly the type of analysis is also vital.
Here we provide examples of the advantages and disadvantages of quantitative research in more detail so that you can understand what data and insights it can generate and how it needs to be used with other market research techniques.
What is quantitative market research?
Quantitative market research is all about measurement. It comes in the form of conducting surveys, polls or questionnaires to obtain information from participants. By utilising these simple data collection methods, it allows businesses to gather large volumes of responses, which means a more reliable, robust and representative sample size.
When undertaking quantitative market research, conclusions can be drawn from the feedback and preferences expressed by participants. This then allows a business to react quickly to consumer responses and act on any notable aspects of the analysis.
Quantitative research has a number of perceived and real disadvantages. These are summarised below and then we have explored each topic in more detail to provide you with a deep understanding of how to use this research methodology.
|Higher sample size – means the capability of more accurate results
|Missing meaning – High volume can lose purpose or inference of individual results
|Collect information quickly- Saves time and enables quick analysis of results
|Preset answers mask true feelings – Polls or rigidly formed surveys remove tailored responses
|Anonymous research – removes the potential for bias or outside influence
|No option to review answers – Harder to identify personality traits of participants to the survey
|Doesn’t require direct observation – saves time and money for staff
|Unnatural environments may cause artificial results – hard to reduce factors of outside influence
|Digitised data collection – accessible storage and ability to interpret results via software
|Randomised data collection will not always create usable information – May not bring any noticeable trends through lack of consumer focus
The fact that we know the potential pitfalls at Spark means we do everything we can to mitigate against them. Quant is extremely useful and often times essential in helping our clients make strategic decisions.
Find out more
At Spark Market Research we employ many data collection methods and forms of market research. Quantitative market research is just one of many elements to our expertise, so if you would like to find out more about quantitative research or the services offered by Spark Market Research, get in touch.
Please visit our contact us page for details.
Advantages of Quantitative Market Research
- Higher Sample size: Surveys online and social media polls are easily accessible to anyone, and they can be posted across multiple platforms. Having a higher sample size makes results more reliable. By reliable we mean the results have a smaller Margin of Error. Quantitative research and statistics are inherently linked; however, we look after all of the statistics back in the office, so you don’t have to. Of course, if you want to look behind the statistics curtain, just ask!
- The more people taking part in a survey, the better the accuracy of making conclusions on the general direction or feel of consumers. By only using a small sample size, you may find conclusions do not represent a large group of people, rather the few you took data from. Don’t get us started on those ads that claim “86% of 50 people agreed” – that’s not reliable!
A wide sample size is always recommended with quantitative marketing to best achieve accuracy and reliability. Outside factors can influence individual results so casting a wide net, balances out anomalies and narrows collective results down to something closer to a reflection of the general truth. We also run quality checks on all data to reduce / eliminate any of these issues.
- Speedy Data collection: Due to the nature of the internet, information gets around quickly due to the number of users constantly online and the traffic generated. This means something as simple as a poll or survey can reach a large online audience quickly if posted on a platform with a large audience. Quantitative market research is much quicker than attempting to acquire feedback from specific individuals who may not respond immediately or find the time to participate in monitored research. Polls and surveys require less commitment and come with prompts that mean a user can complete one without too much effort. Quick collection of information means you can keep on top of current trends and make the necessary next steps should you need to adjust any aspects of your business.
- Randomised Samples: Surveys and Polls are generally anonymous. By using anonymised data we can get an understanding of how the “(wo)man on the street” views the propositions you are putting forward in your survey. This is perfect for achieving as close to an objective view of the topics as possible.
- By hand-selecting participants to a survey, there may be inherent bias whereby you gather information from overly favourable or overly critical people. This means you will fail to achieve a balanced view and something that resembles the true state of play. By randomising samples and ensuring the sample size is large, it is the best market research approach for extracting data that represents the perfect base for analysis. If, for example, you wanted feedback on a product, this approach is the best way of analysing whether the average person who engages with it would ever consider buying it. Or, if a visitor to your website finds it easy to navigate and informative. Of course, you may choose to actively recruit current users of that product or of a competitor product to test their opinions. We will always recommend the best way forward.
- Focused on facts: In times where data is needed immediately, you need quick answers that are focused and serve a precise purpose. A poll or survey has structure and leaves little room for interpretation when constructed as such. Simple tick boxes or yes and no answers can guide the participant to how you would like them to navigate your survey while being precise and to the point. A good survey should not feel like hard work for the participant.
- When needing data in its purest form, collecting data through long-form, individualised, response, is time-consuming and requires interpretation. Sometimes a quick poll is all that is needed. This allows for quick analysis with little need for translation, with conclusions drawn from large samples of participants who each followed the same steps and were restricted to the same response options. This method is very effective for, as an example, simply finding out whether people prefer the red version or the yellow version of an item you may be selling. There is no need for explanation, just an indication of which product is more appealing to the majority.
- Anonymous Research: When conducting consumer research, ensuring participants know it is done anonymously is the best way of ensuring truthful answers are given. When taken under anonymity, it removes the fear of embarrassment or judgement someone may feel if their answers were to be attributed back to them.
- As the creator of the survey, especially when looking for feedback, you want participants to be as honest as possible, to achieve authentic results. A survey looking to extract the objective truth on a matter could fall into bias if participants are hand-selected and you may fail to achieve the purpose of the survey. Of course, if you need the thoughts of specific individuals, this is not the best approach, but quantitative market research has its advantages and having participants feel more comfortable in offering the truth of their thoughts is objectively a major one.
- Doesn’t require direct observation: When trying to be cost-efficient and attempting to save time, taking location requirements out of the preparation and execution of your research is hugely beneficial. An online survey or poll allows you to conduct research from HQ and put it out online to engage with participants; in lots of different locations/markets/countries, at the same time.
- If structured properly your survey should guide users to the end with a clear path of questions that were designed to achieve the end observation for the business. Surveys conducted in person or attempting to physically obtain feedback in the non-digital world is going to require manpower and time. The beauty of the online world is the ability to engage with multiple consumers at the same time, and when done correctly quantitative marketing research should not need direct observation of the results collecting process. Analysis can take place once sample data is collected and is ready for interpretation.
- Unrestricted data collection: The nature of digitally based research is that it can be conducted among a high quantity of participants and is not time-restricted. Putting a survey out online allows users from any time zone to engage with it, meaning you can continue to extract data even during periods where your staff are out of the office and it is no longer business hours. This does not only speed up the process of data collection, but it expands the reach of your research by not limiting itself geographically.
- As discussed, larger sample sizes mean a more accurate representation of the average opinion, so being able to gather participants from different locations who do not need to commit to a research process involving travel or restrictive conditions is highly convenient. Of course, this may not be relevant to your business if it is the opinion of a certain demographic you are looking for, but it is an option and a certain advantage to the capabilities offered by quantitative market research.
- Numerical data: The nature of numerical data is that it can be viewed at scale and is easier to interpret in a general sense. Analysing data collected for the intention of consumer feedback would take substantial time if it came in the form of an email response or even via phone call. Compiling such data and then attempting to fit it all into a structure that can be strategically interpreted is effort consuming.
- Quantitative research surveys or polls allow for large amounts of response data to be stored while being structured and all participants given focus. This allows your business to analyse the opinions of many on a certain matter, without having to hear the detailed context behind each response. Reverting to our example of consumer preference between red and yellow versions of the same item, the benefits of numerical data collection are on show, in that such a question does not require phone calls or detailed email responses to achieve the results, rather the simple numerical data of a poll, sufficiently indicating which product is more likely to sell.
Disadvantages of Quantitative Market Research
- Doesn’t consider the meaning behind social phenomena: As much as this form of research allows you to gather wide-scale consumer feedback on whatever subject you include in your survey, poll or questionnaire, it fails to provide as much context as qualitative would for instance. You may conduct a survey that provides simple prompts as to the view a contributor may have on a certain topic, but when it comes to the scaled-out context of why people have that view, it fails. It could be useful to obtain user thoughts on a current predicament or a certain product, and you may find there is a majority view on the matter, but what a survey will not tell you is why that is a majority view. It is difficult to understand trends and subsequently anticipate the next trend through quantitative research alone.
- Answers are taken at face value: When conducting a survey, you can obtain the thoughts of participants, but they are limited to the time you sent the survey out and the time the user responded. Once data is collected, that is now historic data, and through the nature of anonymity, it is data now permanently individual to that response. In other words, opinions can change, and when it comes to conducting surveys, it is impossible to review answers with each responder. This has two disadvantages. You will not be able to understand the detailed reasoning between each participant’s responses and more importantly, in the case of surveys about aspects of your business, once you have made adjustments guided by feedback, you normally cannot go back to that person to see if they now have a different opinion. This is a stumbling block when it comes to attempting to gain the satisfaction of what were unsatisfied or apathetic consumers. Of course, if you ask their permission and capture their details based on that permission this is possible.
- The process of randomisation means that it could be harder to spot trends within demographics and understand growing trends within certain pools of people. A completely randomised approach can bring objectivity, but it also runs the risk of incoherence and irrelevancy when it comes to achieving a goal with feedback on a particular matter, from a particular type of person. For that reason, you may consider a booster in your sample around a specific demographic or if you have a segmentation model, around a certain segment(s).
- Potential invalidity of responses: Of course, it is helpful to assume that surveys, when conducted anonymously, allow for an environment that enables participants to be comfortable in giving their true thoughts on a matter. However, the nature of surveys is that they are easy to complete, require little physical effort and some may see it as a chance to kill a bit of time by ticking a few boxes. Essentially, it still cannot be certain that survey responses reflect the true thoughts of responders, as without introducing face to face human discussion, it is easier to skip the truth, and harder to observe the attitude people took to their responses. At Spark we have clever technology in-built into our surveys to identify those who are just “ticking boxes”. These responses are excluded from our final data findings.
- Overly structured?: As much as surveys and polls can be tailored to guide the responder through the path you set out, it may not provide them with enough leeway to give their true opinion as accurately as possible. If you have a survey containing boxes to tick, or you attempt to get the contributor to express a preference between two propositions, it shoehorns them into picking an option that will only serve as being the closest thing to what they believe. Some people may have different thoughts completely from what you have attempted to get them to express, and this could result in a survey containing half-truths and metaphorical lines of best fit. The nature of a survey is that it is impossible to achieve the full contextualised thoughts of the responder, but in many cases, this is not something the creator of a survey is attempting to achieve. It is all about the purpose of your research.
Tips on Quantitative Market Research
If you are looking to do your own quantitative market research, there are a couple of key tips we can give to assist you in the process.
Know your objectives: Firstly, we would encourage you to fully understand the major business questions you are looking to answer. This will allow us to construct a survey, questionnaire or series of polls that enables you to ask smaller questions that guide the consumer to the bigger picture and allow you to understand their overall views. Consider the individual elements that make up a formulated discussion on a particular topic. If this seems difficult, don’t worry – we can help!
Combine your research with qualitative research: We previously discussed the drawbacks to survey-based research in that respondents are shoehorned into certain answers and there is no consideration of context. To address this, consider a side project that seeks to obtain more detail in responses, be it through open-ended questionnaires or even panel discussions. The combination of the two market research types allows you to collect large samples while also having an element of subjectivity, context and reasoning behind a majority mindset. We often recommend this approach at Spark and we would also make recommendations based on the best use of your time and budget to answer your business objectives.
We can do it for you
Being experts in market research, we thought it would be amiss to not mention the services we can provide if you are seeking quantitative market research. Our team are experts in carrying this research out, devising structure and implementation methods that best achieves a high volume and quality of responses. If you want to discuss quantitative research or any other research needs, please get in touch.