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Interpreting qualitative methods in business research

Posted last March 4, 2014, 3:38 am in Services report article

This article talks about why business research is becoming increasingly important to companies across sectors. Subsequently it talks about the research methods used to carry out this process and concentrates on the qualitative methods adopted by some of the top research firms in India and abroad.

 Business research is the process of collecting relevant data or information and thereafter applying them to resolve a problem in a business setting. Companies usually employ a host of techniques available to them to fully examine and investigate the specific target markets so as to render substantial evidence to the decisions made for the resolution of a business situation.


In this age of cut throat competition, business research helps to make the process of analysis and the subsequent decision making process of companies easier and also lends more transparency to the process. The insights gained from the markets aid in identifying a number of aspects of the commercial proposition which helps companies define their purpose as well as their modus operandi. Highlighted below are some of the key reasons companies employ specialists to carry out these studies:


To determine the target market and potential customers so as to enable the development of directed products and services To enable a thorough examination of competitors, in order to determine their position and standing in the marketplace To allow for competent decision making through using the data gathered to judge whether it is feasible to enter a particular market segment To assist businesses that are already functional in a market segment to further study the market so as to formulate new marketing approaches that will help them strengthen their position in the market


Thus, given that research serves a number of purposes, that are necessary to facilitate sound decision making based on analytical data gathered from studying the market, business leaders across geographies have deemed market research and intelligence as absolutely indispensible for the success of an enterprise.


Research methodologies employed

 Business research firms use different types of tools and techniques for market analysis. The procedures involved depend largely on the type of business and the research being carried out. Broadly speaking there are two main types of analysis that are commonly employed - namely, qualitative and quantitative analysis. While quantitative analysis deals with numerical data, qualitative analysis is more subjective, taking into account the market intelligence that is available. In this article we will discuss the various qualitative methods that are adopted by firms to gather relevant insights into their target markets.


 Qualitative Analysis 

Qualitative analysis mainly involves instances where researchers detect and record behaviors of a specific target segment of the market, in natural settings. The main advantage of applying this method is the flexibility it permits. Researchers can tailor their research design at any point of time according to the current needs and thereafter analyze it accordingly. Though this methodology allows for more elasticity, the nature of this research is such that it takes into account a vast number of influencing factors, thus providing more comprehensive results. The key techniques availed are as follows:


 Case Studies

When companies want a thorough understanding of the market dynamics they are known to conduct case studies. Although time consuming, case studies aid in a comprehensive assessment of customer satisfaction levels, product use and attributes in a relevant context. Data gathering includes on-site observations and/or interviews and surveys. Analysts often prefer case studies, given that an encompassing, in-depth information and understanding of the market can be derived through the process.


Surveys are often employed by business research to gather large amounts of data in a short period of time, at comparatively lower costs. With the advent of modern technology it has become further possible for companies to form online surveys that would reach out to larger audiences in the assigned target market within shorter periods of time, thus providing enough mass insights to base decisions on.  


Interviews use similar questions as surveys, but the primary advantage that they have over surveys is the fact that they allow respondents the privilege to answer at length. Interviews foster insight by making room for in-depth information about a customer’s experience with a certain product, service or company. Ensuing questions are often asked to get a more descriptive reaction and this method therefore allows the researcher to fully grasp a person’s feedback without the limitations that surveys impose.


Focus groups

Focus groups are one of the most popular research methodologies employed by companies to understand the nature and needs of the market. These groups consist of a small number of people who are consistent with the characteristics and qualities of the target market that is being researched on. Focus group discussions usually happen in an interactive setting where questions are asked by a moderator and the participants are free to share any views or answers they deem suitable.

While there are several techniques that are available to researchers to ensure a proper study of the target market to gain insight and business intelligence, companies often choose to employ more than one method, to ensure an accurate analysis.