Presented by GLG

The following is an excerpt from GLG’s eBook, “Diving Deeper: GLG’s Guide to Effective Qualitative Research.”

What’s the first thing you think of when it comes to market research? Is it a quantitative survey? Is it a qualitative focus group? Is it an in-depth interview (IDI) with an expert or a group of experts?

When clients come to GLG, they usually think they know what they want. But often, a survey isn’t the best methodology to uncover what they want to know, and a series of expert interviews would generate better insights.

Conversely, clients come to us ready to jump right into a series of IDIs. But after some discussion, we realized that they need to establish a foundation of knowledge to fuel expert conversations that can get to the insight they need.

In other cases, our clients come to us with a business need but are uncertain about how to move forward.

In broad strokes, quantitative research methods are appropriate for confirmatory purposes. It’s best when you want to reach a larger target audience to measure the purchase likelihood for a new product offering or capture attitudinal sentiments from a robust target group, for example.

Qualitative tends to be more exploratory, often used more for innovation of new product concepts or messages or deeply understanding the motivations, thoughts and tendencies of the target population.

When and where to use qualitative research

There are three main qualitative methodologies that we use at GLG: focus groups, online discussion boards, and IDIs. Each of these methodologies is better suited to a different type of business need.

Focus Groups — Focus groups are a good solution when the research needs to capture the reactions and uncover deeper insights by observing the interaction of a small group of highly specialized experts. Such focus groups can be virtual or in person and are usually four or five experts of the same target persona. When considering a focus group, ask yourself: Do I have a homogeneous target population? Can they all be in the room at the same time, sharing similar ideas? Is it important to see the expert’s reaction to a topic or to a certain stimulus? A focus can answer yes to any of these questions, a focus group is probably the best option for your research objective.

Online Discussion Boards — Online discussion boards are the best option when it is important to reach a large sample size, a broad geographic region, or a hard-to-reach population or to get data from various target segments. This methodology is asynchronous, so participants can log in at any time during the appointed time frame. Online discussion boards provide a large variety of question formats, such as multiple choice, ranking, sharing stimuli, and creating heat maps, making the information gathered rich and diverse. However, because they’re preprogrammed, discussion boards do not always allow for profound probing. As such, they might not be the best solution for things such as a complicated purchase journey or unmet needs testing, research objectives where we need deep information to solve your business needs.

In-Depth Interviews — These are a good solution for research needs where deep individual thoughts and experiences are essential. In-depth interviews can reveal the “why” behind obscure questions, diverse behaviors, and market needs. They are also a great source for understanding buying journeys and UX testing.

The chart below identifies the key differences between the methodologies and how to determine which is best for your needs.

Focus GroupsOnline Discussion BoardsIn-Depth Interviews
Capture real-time reactions in a dynamic group setting where participants can interact with/feed off one another, which can uncover
deeper insights. Gather many perspectives at once, which allows for rich discussions and consensus.
Asynchronous, with engagement over the course of days or weeks.  Greater geographic reach and large samples.  Flexibility in early insight discovery with the possibility of tweaking stimuli throughout project. Variety of question types (open-ended, quantitative, scales) provides diversity in findings.Provides the possibility of comparing information from diverse target segments​. Respondents are engaged in the conversation, able to express deep personal thoughts and opinions about the subject matter​.  
Ask Yourself:
Will the group discussion/dynamics add value and get us closer to the research objectives?
Ask Yourself:
How much depth do I need from the
responses to answer my needs?
Ask Yourself:
Is the question or the process I need to understand very complicated and/or personal? 

For a deeper look at qualitative research strategies and applications, check out GLG’s eBook: “Diving Deeper: GLG’s Guide to Effective Qualitative Research.”

Melena Donas is Senior Manager, Research Insights at GLG and Brett Simpson is Vice President, Solutions at GLG.

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