Myths about qualitative research

  1. Qualitative research relates only to focus groups and in-depth interviews.

It is true that focus groups and in-depth interviews are most often used in the qualitative research. However, in recent years, ethnographic methods are also gaining increasing popularity, which make it possible to go beyond traditional qualitative research and study consumers in their “natural habitat”.

  1. Members of focus groups do not always give truthful answers. For example, when people participate in focus groups, they begin to deceive each other and give only those answers which they perceive to be socially acceptable. They also play certain roles and influence each other.

It can be said that we play roles not only in focus groups, but in life in general so it can be argued that this is a completely normal and natural process. We often find ourselves giving answers which are deemed more socially acceptable and many of us have a desire to appear better than we are in the eyes of other people. This is no different in focus groups and this impacts the accuracy and reliability of the results.  However, the fact that we conduct research in the positivism paradigm, that is, not trusting every particular case and recheck the results, helps to even out their influence. We conduct more than one focus group to check the results of the previous one and we conduct several interviews to validate the results.

The process of mutual group influence is rather positive, since in the process of so-called group dynamics, there is a birth of new ideas and insight, thanks to which, focus groups are so valuable

  1. In reports on qualitative research, answers should be calculated as a percentage. It is based on these percentages that you are able to draw a conclusion about the product and make a decision.

Of course, it is not always like this. In reports on qualitative research, we indicate the detected tendencies and severity at the level of “more often” or “less often” at a similar opinion. The task of quantifying, that is counting the frequency and strength of the severity of a phenomenon, is already an issue for quantitative research, which often follows qualitative, in order to verify and quantify the hypotheses obtained as a result of the qualitative research.

  1. It is enough to hold a focus group once. There is no need to gather participants on multiple occasions if the results are clear.

A partial answer to this question is given in paragraph 2.

Since the weaker sides of qualitative research methods, including focus groups, are the extremely small sample sizes, it is important that their results be validated in other ways in order to even out the effect of the small samples. If we consider national brands, we usually recommend they conduct research in at least 2-3 cities in order to gather a wider range of opinions on the subject under study.

When only one focus group is held, we cannot be sure that the result of one group or one interview is not an anomaly, mistakenly taken for the main trend. For example, more people with more conservative thinking may happen to be in the group and their conservative opinions may be accepted as the norms, despite the fact that the target audience is much less conservative and, on the contrary, needs non-standard and innovative solutions. If fundamentally contradictory results were obtained from two focus groups, it is recommended to hold at least a further 1-2 focus groups in order to resolve these contradictions and understand which trend prevails.

  1. Qualitative research does not give the opportunity to study the market as the samples are often too small.

Qualitative studies provide insights into market trends, with the motives of consumption of the participants helping to form a psycho-graphic consumer’s portrait to study the images of key players in a well-branded market. However, they cannot be used for the quantitative measurements of market volume, the frequency and volumes of consumption or cross-consumption.

  1. Quantitative research is better than qualitative, because it is conclusive, showing numbers and graphs.

Qualitative research is no better or worse than quantitative. It simply solves other problems. Unlike quantitative methods that answer questions such as “how much?” and “how often”, qualitative research answers the questions “why?” and “how?”

  1. It is cheaper and faster to conduct 10 in-depth interviews than to collect information from 2 focus groups.

Again, it is necessary to proceed from the objectives of the research and the resources available. If you need to do something quickly and inexpensively, it may be better to spend money on adding extra depth to the research. Companies may also consider interviewing in cases that they need to dig into the process of choosing a certain brand, explore customer satisfaction with the use of a product or service, sources of information, situations of consumption or factors influencing purchase decisions. This is especially relevant for durable goods, which can be characterized by a complex and lengthy decision-making process.

However, if you need to research market trends or the motives and preferences regarding the choice of brand, brand images on the market or you want to test creative ideas, dig into the emotional aspects of a category or brand relationship using projective techniques, focus groups work better here

  1. In-depth one-on-one interviews are always better because no respondents influence each other.

This is not entirely true. Moderators of these interviews can influence the interviewees. It is important to remember that one-on-one interviews and focus groups simply perform the different tasks. These tasks have been outlined in detail in the previous paragraph. Focus groups are better when it is important for us to understand the effects of group dynamics such as creativity, the development of ideas and when searching for insights.

  1. Immediately after conducting a focus group, you are able to make a decision. This is because the business conducting the focus group has gained a feeling of which version/variation suits it best, or what would work and what would not.

Yes, this may be true sometimes. It can happen that groups produce such unambiguous and consistent results. However, it is more often the case that the situation is not so unambiguous, and you need to think about the results well, read the analyst’s report and then make a decision. For example, a video was really liked by a loyal audience but it was not liked at all by the consumers of the competitor brands. Then, when making a decision, it is necessary to take into account not only the reaction of the loyal audience but also the objectives of the advertising campaign in order to retain the loyal customers or recruit new ones from its competitors. Sometimes you need to either look for another idea or launch the campaign, knowing that it will only hook a certain audience.

  1. Managers are usually firmly convinced that they know their market and customer base well and that research is a trend that can be dispensed with.

Unfortunately, this is not a myth, rather a reality in which researchers face daily. Many business owners consider research to be a waste of money. It is thankless task to persuade someone, so in my practice I focus more on the customers that understand the importance and the value of research when making business decisions. The fact is that most of the multinational companies that have built effective business processes that achieve tremendous success on the market constantly explore new markets. These companies regularly conduct research, monitor the market and study the behavior of their consumers.

  1. Research can be done on its own and there is no need to hire a contractor.

Some research can actually be done on its own. Especially if the company has a well-tuned CRM system and regularly collects data on its customers, which can be analyzed and important information about the consumer profile, customer segments, dynamism drawn up. However, such an analysis will apply only to your own clients and will not give you an idea of the market as a whole. When you conduct your own research, it is important to remember that before doing this, you need to become familiar with the basic principles and mechanics of how to conduct qualitative research, how to make a guide, what the rules and principles of the focus groups are and the many approaches to analyzing results.


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