This series is a general overview of research, how to conduct research, how to talk about research. It is designed for a general audience and not necessarily for trained or professional researchers.
The Business Decision
It all starts with a business decision that needs to be made.
This sounds really basic, but it's surprising how easy it is to start out with "I really need to ask 200 people this question." Sometimes you have to stop and think: What business decision is going to be made from this information? What action are you going to take based on the answers you get back?
By doing this, often times, you'll find out that the question you thought you wanted to ask isn't really going to help make this decision. You may realize you need to ask a different question or be surveying different types of people. You also may realize you should be doing a different kind of study.
Always focus on the business decision first, and everything cascades from that.
Information Needs – People VS Things
Once you have figured out the business decision to be made, then you can decide what information you need to make that decision. For example, you may need information like “60 percent of my shoppers think this or do this,” or “80 percent of stores have this kind of display going up in the store,” etc.
So – is the information you need about people, or is it information about things?
Example Questions About People
Example Questions About Things
If it's a question about things, that's an audit question. If it's a question about people, that's a consumer or shopper research question.
What kind of information do you need to know about people? It breaks down into two types of research:
1. Quantitative Research
Do you need to know “how many?” This can be an absolute number, like how many consumers or shoppers have a certain opinion, or a relative number, like what actions or opinions are more common among my consumers or shoppers, or what is more preferred. If it's that type of question, then it's a quantitative research question.
Anytime people want to know quantities, anytime they want to know how many people do a certain thing, or whether there are more people doing one thing than another, that's quantitative.
If you're trying to describe, explain, get a better understanding of why, explore how people think about it, how they talk about something – those are all qualitative research questions.
2. Qualitative Research
With a qualitative study, you need descriptive information. You approach it by designing questions to get people talking, to get people thinking so they can tell you those “whys,” so they can explain, so they can describe. You usually choose a small number of people that you can really go into detail with. You want to get them to do that explaining, describing, and telling you why.
Usually, you hand-select those people so that you get respondents who are more likely to be able to talk to you and go deep with you. That's one reason why you should not use qualitative studies to count people, because you don't get a broad cross-section of everybody in these types of studies. Instead, you hand-select the types of people who can really explain to you what they're thinking about and why they're doing certain things.
Research that is designed to be qualitative should not then be used to count “how many.”
Often when behaviors and attitudes are discovered in qualitative research, then a quantitative study will be done later to count the prevalence of each of those behaviors and attitudes.
Feeling good about making the business decision? Now it's time to check out parts 2 and 3 of our Research Series: