Qualitative market research refers to a specific type of market research conducted in which the results are analyzed using subjective measures, words and discussion as opposed to statistical analysis. This type of research can provide a different sort of insight into market opinion than quantitative research, in which numerical statistics are gathered and analyzed. Qualitative market research generally involves smaller groups of individuals and/or is more expensive to conduct and analyze than quantitative research.
Market research refers to the process of studying and analyzing a given market. Companies conduct this type of research often either to test the response to advertising or a product or to determine whether potential customers would be interested in a given product offering. Focus groups that test new movies and television shows are one example of a form of market research, as are online surveys in which people report about their interest in a given product or about their experience with a given product.
Market research can be conducted in one of two ways: quantitative data can be collected and analyzed or qualitative data can be collected and analyzed. Quantitative data is normally easier to obtain and manage; both the process of getting the data and the process of determining what the data means is relatively simple. Quantitative data can involve looking at the numbers of people who purchased a given product. It can also involve asking customers or those being researched to provide numerical answers, such as rating a product on a scale of one to ten.
Qualitative research, on the other hand, involves a different type of data collection. Customers may be asked to provide written responses to a questionnaire, for example, or to give an explanation of how a product makes them feel or their experience with it. Customers may also be observed interacting with a product. For example, a focus group may be asked to watch a television show while sitting in front of a two-way mirror; observers can watch their reaction to the show. That same focus group may also be asked to discuss and talk about their feelings toward the given show.
All of this data from the qualitative market research must then be looked at and analyzed to determine what it means. Determining the meaning and market opinion from such qualitative market research is more difficult than simply doing a statistical analysis of how many people responded with a given numerical rating. Generally, social scientists or other experts will analyze the data conducted in qualitative market research to garner an idea of the market's sentiment or attitude toward the studied subject.