Applications of Qualitative Marketing Research Methods

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  • 0:04 Qualitative Marketing
  • 1:53 Qualitative Research Methods
  • 6:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Loy

Dr. Loy has a Ph.D. in Resource Economics; master's degrees in economics, human resources, and safety; and has taught masters and doctorate level courses in statistics, research methods, economics, and management.

This lesson describes direct and disguised research methods available for qualitative marketing research. Common examples covered include focus groups and in-depth interviews, while less common methods like consumer neuroscience are also addressed.

Qualitative Marketing

Renee is a marketing specialist for Nelson Groceries, Inc. This company owns several hundred small and medium size grocery stores in rural areas across the United States. The company wants to offer an incentive program for customers as a reward for purchasing a lot of groceries from the company. Renee is charged with using qualitative marketing research methods to determine what type of rewards program would be used by customers. Renee considers her options.

Qualitative marketing research uses focus groups, in-depth interviews, verbal protocol analysis, ethnographic research, collaborative communities, physiological measurement, consumer neuroscience, and digital simulations and virtual reality and augmented reality to gain data that are narrative in nature. Each qualitative technique is used by a researcher to gain insight into consumer behavior beyond what a structured survey can provide. An interviewer probes beyond initial responses and uses techniques that include observing nonverbal behaviors and beliefs beyond cause and effect relationships.

There are two types of qualitative research: direct and disguised. Direct research is the type of data gathering where the subject knows he or she is being studied. Disguised research, on the other hand, looks at the actual behavior of an individual, not what subjects say they feel. Disguised research is limited in its ability to understand what motivates consumer behaviors because they cannot be asked directly and are unaware of the researcher's intentions. Qualitative research methods are either direct or disguised, depending on how the researcher wants to gather the data. Let's look into several qualitative research methods and see how Renee can use them to find the data she needs.

Qualitative Research Methods

Focus groups are one of the most common ways used to gather qualitative marketing data. Renee uses focus groups from different parts of the country to determine whether one incentive program would work or multiple types are needed. She organizes each focus group in a way that represents the demographics of that part of the country. Renee brings the group members together and then discusses several different types of incentive programs to see what participants like and dislike among the choices.

In-depth interviews are used by Renee to see why certain consumers are not interested in having any incentive program. She chooses individuals from her focus groups to interview in detail. Renee wants more information on what experiences the individuals have had to dissuade them from being interested in any incentive program. Renee feels this gives her valuable information in how to make the program unique and successful.

A verbal protocol analysis is a method used by a researcher to gather a detailed recording of a person's verbal activity. Renee visits several grocery stores over the period of a week. During this time, she gives a sample of customers mock incentive plans to use while shopping. One offers a lower price on gas, one gives consumers additional coupons, and another offers cash back bonuses. Renee uses the customers' verbal thoughts to determine whether the task of applying the incentive program is too complicated.

Ethnographic research is used to study members of a particular culture. Nelson Groceries owns several stores in New Mexico, where Native Americans are among the largest group of customers. Renee is really interested in keeping these customers so she decides to research their buying habits. She uses existing data for this research, but makes sure to use the results when deciding how to develop the incentive program.

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