By now most people know the value of research. However, we tend to prefer the hard data research type. See the spreadsheet, count the numbers. For some, it’s because charts look better in a pitch, and some just find the numbers easier to understand. And while quantitative data is important, it’s not always the answer. Let’s talk about qualitative research and how it can benefit your StartUp.

What Is Qualitative Research?

There are two methods for researching the market: qualitative and quantitative. The former is what we’re going to talk about today. But it’s important to understand the difference between them to really see the potential of qualitative research. 

Quantitative (or quant for short) is about numbers and specific numeric answers. It is useful when you need data to back you up. Quant is based on a statistically relevant sample of your target which will help you answer questions like “How much people are willing to pay for my product?”. The problem starts, when you ask questions like “Why are people using my product?”. Here’s when quant is of no use.

It is qualitative (or qual for short) research that can answer questions like “Why are people using my product?” or “How does the product fit into their lives?”. Those things can’t be measured but they bring a depth of perspective that is very much needed, especially when working on a new product. The thing is, many new StartUp owners often overlook the possibilities qual offers. Instead, they prefer to rely just on quantitative data. Why you shouldn’t do that? Below I will present how qual can positively impact your ideas.

How Can Qualitative Research Improve Your Vision?

Many people, wrongly, think that qualitative research is undermining their ideas. It is actually the opposite way around – conducting such research brings more depth into your vision and makes it whole. It is about taking an idea, validating it and/or improving what needs to be improved in order to succeed. Here are the areas of your product that can be improved or filled by qualitative research:

Market Needs

Needs and emotions can’t be measured. That’s why it’s crucial to conduct qual research. It is the only way you can understand what exactly is it that people need and what are the market gaps that you can fill with your product. Without it, it’s just shooting in the dark and hope you don’t miss. Spoiler alert – you most likely will, and that’s why so many companies fail.

Communication And Branding

Qualitative research is also one of the best tools to test how to communicate with your target audience, how to approach them and how to market your product. You can get direct information about how to advertise, package and design your product. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But that’s something that can’t be done using quantitative research, because it involves emotion. 


This tool can help even with your strategy. It can help mature companies to boost their growth. By researching how does the product fit into the user’s life, what are its strengths and weaknesses, you can make necessary improvements to stand out in the crowd. Again, this is something you can’t achieve with quantitative research. Because even if you ask people “Are they satisfied with your product?” and, let’s say, 30% answer “No.” – you still have no idea WHY they are not satisfied.

How To Conduct Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research can be done using different methods, depending on the situation and the goal. It also depends a lot on your product. Sometimes (okay, most of the times), the situation will call for multiple methods in order to really get in deep into the problem. Here are the most popular methods we use to conduct qualitative research:

Focus Groups

Focus groups are one of the most popular methods of qualitative research. The idea is to get 6-8 people and a moderator in the room to gather insights in a controlled environment. A focus group is a good choice when you want to explore people’s interactions. Here’s an example of a great focus group task done by an excellent researcher Jesse Caesar

“I’ve moderated groups where I divided the room into two teams, and I assigned them to develop their ideal product and sell it to the opposing team. That helped the client identify important criteria for their own product, as well as the right language to describe it with.”

Some worry, that a focus group might encourage participants to follow the crowd rather than share their own thoughts. While it may occur and be true, a skilled moderator will know how to avoid this and how to encourage individuals to voice their point of view.

In-person Interviews

As the name suggest, this method is about interviewing just one person at once. It is the best choice when you have lots of things to discuss, have prepared a wireframe or a different form of a prototype or want to discuss more sensitive topics like health, personal life or money. Generally, those are also useful when the people who you want to interview are busy and work on a tight schedule (business executives, nurses etc.). Because of their “nature”, one-on-one interviews tend to be more time-consuming and more expensive. The recruitment needs to be more focused, might take longer and the interviews themselves can be pretty long.

The 1:1 interviews can  be done via a phone or a video call as well. This usually comes in handy when your targets are across different locations. Phone and video interviews are not recommended when it comes to group interviews as that would be hard to control and moderate, not to mention the risk of experiencing technical difficulties.

Ethnographic Studies

This type of research focuses on the target’s interaction with a product in their natural environment – their home, nearby shop etc. Such research usually provides really interesting and important findings, because it places the user and the product in context. But you need to be especially careful with this type of study – always get permission ahead of time, be respectful of people’s homes and rules and try to avoid other people being there during the interview.

There’s a few other ways to do qualitative research, but those are the most popular and the most often used. If you’d like to consult which method will be best for you – contact us and our team will help you choose.

Rules For Ensuring Your Research Is Successful

 Even though, StartUps may be onboard with qualitative research, they sometimes tend to overlook some things, which may result in the research not being successful. Here’s what to keep in mind when conducting research:

Define And Specify Your Goals

Before diving into research you need to know why are you even doing it. Some companies do research just for the sake of it, or to show that they care about their users – but nothing actually follow such research. That’s why you need to know what are your goals and objectives. This will directly affect each aspect of your research – the target, the scope, the questions you ask. Before diving in, make sure to know what you’re looking for.

Plan Ahead (But Don’t Get Too Carried Away)

Planning your research is important, but it is also important to be realistic about your resources. Based on your objectives, you can predict which way to go and how to conduct your studies, but your resources are what makes the final call.

If you’re just starting out, it’s best to go with in-house research, rather than venture into the costly territory of agencies and freelancers. It has some advantages – you will be in total control of your research and can adjust the timelines to suit you. But there is a chance that you won’t do an excellent job – after all, that’s what experts are for.

You can also hire a larger agency do to the research. What they bring to the table is more people and resources. But they also tend to JUST do the job, instead of encouraging the creative process, do not expect them to do anything outside of the scope.

There’s also the intersection between doing it yourself and hiring a big agency – you can also work with an independent researcher. The biggest advantage here is the personalized approach. When working with an independent researcher you can count on them on getting into your objectives and really focusing on your goals. The downside is that a single person can only do so much and so the research may take longer.

Expect Nothing

Here’s what can really make your research worthless – expectations. I get it, you have a great idea, really believe in it and want it to work. But when it comes to research, you just can’t go in with an outcome in mind. Your expectations need to go. And don’t get me wrong – having hypothesis and testing it is good, that’s exactly what research is for, but don’t be upset when it doesn’t hold up. With this type of research, which is mostly based on observation, it is crucial to analyze the results objectively and not try to interpret them according to your expectations.

And… A Few Tips For Conducting Your Research

I know that there are rules already, but there’s more to keep in mind when trying to find answers. In all honesty, the more careful you are when doing research, the better the outcome will be. So, here’s a few more tips:

1. Be Careful And Smart About Your Questions

It doesn’t matter whether you have 15 minutes or 5 hours with your subjects, you need to be careful about your questions. What you ask and how you ask it, is directly impacting your results. Craft your questions so that you don’t come out of the session with nothing. Don’t overdo it – nobody wants to be bombarded with questions. Choose what you need to ask and also include some questions to create a bond with the subject and make them feel more comfortable. 

2. Know That Your Agenda May Be Changed

One thing about qualitative research is that it can be unpredictable. You just never know what you may uncover in the process. That’s why it’s important to know that not everything may go to plan. You may need to change the questions you ask and come up with new ones on the spot. It is all about improvising and being ready for change.

3. Explore Different Angles

The best way to get an answer out of someone is by asking about the same thing from different angles. Because all of us are different, we also have different emotions, views and needs. That’s why it’s important to understand an issue from different standpoints. A subject may not be very open when asked one question, but a different question just might open them up. Exploring different angles may also be extremely useful for you, as a researcher – you might uncover something you have never even thought about.

4. Look For Patterns

You won’t get hard, numerical data out of qualitative research. It usually happens that not even two answers to one question are the same. And that’s okay – we’re not looking for statistics. What you should be looking for are patterns. Similarities. This is how you will find your answers. When analysing the results it is extremely important to keep an open mind, because it is the only way you can find patterns.

Be Ready To Implement Changes

The very last thing is to be ready for a change. After all, you’re doing research to improve something. The results may not align with your expectations but they can shift your thinking towards success. 

If you need some help with your research – contact us and our team will help you out!