What is quantitative research?
Most clients have some idea already, but to clarify, here is a classic dictionary definition:
“The use of numerical analysis techniques to provide information useful to those involved in promoting products or services. Many business applications of quantitative marketing research involve surveying customers. The information thus obtained can be used by marketing staff to assess consumer needs and formulate more effective product marketing strategies.” – Business Dictionary.
We believe quantitative research isn’t quite as cut and dry as business dictionary suggests. Of course, the basic building blocks of a quant project include surveys and questionnaires, robustness, representative samples, data, number crunching, significance testing etc. But when digging a bit deeper, quant research is much more than that.
- “It’s the consumer story in the numbers.”
- “It’s the ability to paint with numbers.”
- “It’s the measurement of consumer truths.”
- “Through ‘Big Data’, it’s the ability to link actual behaviours to what people think and feel.”
Quant research in transition
The increasing use of big data highlights the transition that quant market research is undergoing. We’re living in a time where businesses can understand people using multiple data sets and therefore the definition of what is included in quant market research is changing.
It’s not just about survey data now, but how survey data helps to compliment other data sets. Part of why a fresh way with quant research is necessary is to use these different data sets so we can quantitatively understand the ‘multiple consumer truths’ that are out there.
We can use different data capture techniques to map people’s mindsets at different times in the purchase journey.
- Surveys are great for understanding people’s typical behaviours and attitudes.
- Mobile diaries are best for recent behaviours.
- Passive tracking is powerful in understanding minute-by-minute actual behaviours.
Data quality is essential for us to be able to tell the story of the consumer and answer the business question. But in this age of shorter attention spans and more time pressures it’s important that we be creative in our use of survey design to get to this quality data. Gone are the days where we can expect respondents to fill in a 30-minute (or longer!) survey. As researchers, we must ‘unlearn’ the way we’ve been asking the typical market research survey questions since the 1950s. If your questions are more than 15 minutes long, you need to find a better wat to ask the questions.
To help develop better ways of asking survey questions, we can turn to behavioural economics.
To be able to uncover on a quantitative scale how people are really connecting to a stimulus (or not) and how people are likely to act in the real world is very powerful. We know that emotional reactions are intrinsically linked to how we make purchase decisions and form opinions.
We need to be creative in our use of quant to get to the heart of the matter. By using the basis of behavioural economics in our survey questioning we can bypass the rational System 2 responses (thinking rather than feeling) to really know how people feel about brands and guide questionnaire development.
Traditionally, quantitative research has been more geared to accessing System 2 thinking, rather than System 1 feeling style questions which means:
- It doesn’t allow us to pick up non-verbal cues.
- It relies heavily on words and numbers rather than visual stimuli.
- Self-reporting, by its nature, takes people straight to System 2 (thinking) by asking them to rationalise often non-rational thought processes.
- Questionnaires can be long and tedious, dulling instinctive thinking.
- Questionaries can lack engagement by asking the same question MANY times
There are many alternative quantitative research techniques which allow us to better access System 1:
- Shorter surveys, faster response times – tapping into thinking fast, not slow.
- Use of images, not just text, as stimulus for question responses, including:
- Ruby Facial Expression cards. VR and AI options
- Provocation boards, for time limited responses
- Incorporate observation – facial imaging using webcams.
- Collect physiological responses – e.g. skin conductance, eye tracking, neural responses.
These tools are all ready to use right now, cost-effectively.
- ‘Think fast, not slow’ style questions can be incorporated in surveys via an automatic timer.
- Ruby has developed emotional Facial Expression cards that can be integrated into standard surveys. Facial imaging, can be incorporated within any online survey at minimal extra cost.
- Marketing application of wearable technology. AI and VR are developing rapidly
All of which can be applied to (among other things):
- Concept testing
- Ad Testing
- Customer satisfaction and journeys.
- Brand positioning and brand health