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"Qualitative insights" is a term that refers to the opinion-based information gathered in a survey. This information contrasts with quantitative data, which is fact-based evidence that can be measured. Most consumer-behavior analyses and studies incorporate both in order to get a clear picture of the marketplace. Qualitative insights are important to this mix because they demonstrate how customers think and feel about a product, brand or situation. These feelings and thoughts often translate into action, so understanding them can help a company produce the consumer actions they want and need.
Qualitative data and quantitative data can be difficult to tell apart because they can be closely related. For example, a survey may ask 70 customers whether or not they saw a specific advertisement. If 35 say yes, the researcher can say that one-half of respondents claim to have viewed the ad. This is quantitative data because it is measurable.
The same survey may go on to ask those who saw the ad what they remember about it. Some may recall the central message of the ad, some might remember a specific character or actor and others might remember the music used in the ad. The researcher might also ask what the respondent liked about the ad and what she didn't like. All of these are qualitative insights. They tell the researcher, and the company, what is most memorable about the ad and what people like.
Such a survey would probably move into perception-based data next. For example, it might ask the 35 people who saw the ad whether their opinions of the company or product changed after seeing the ad. If ten people say that their opinions are worse, this is quantitative. If the survey asks why, these responses would be considered qualitative insights.
Consumer action is one of the most important areas of any research survey because it is what people do that influences a company's sales and profits. For example, a survey might ask how many people purchased a given product in a given month. It might then ask the purchasers a set of qualitative questions, such as what factors contributed to the purchase decision, what they like about the product and how the product makes them feel.
Business is not the only sector that uses qualitative research methods. Governmental and political studies often seek to elicit qualitative insights. Additionally, non-profit organizations use such insights to determine the best ways to send the messages they want heard.