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What is a qualitative study?

A qualitative study is a generic term that designates a methodological approach that makes it possible to study in depth the factors influencing the behavior of individuals or organizational entities. Unlike quantitative studies which are deductive, qualitative methods are inductive. A qualitative study does not seek representativeness but diversity. The samples are smaller but the analyzes are deeper.

A qualitative study aims to highlight the effects of situations, social interactions, constraints, and the play of individuals with social norms. The reality studied, therefore, goes beyond what the individual can perceive himself. Thanks to approaches that approach the subject studied from different angles, it becomes possible to reconstruct a complex reality that escapes the person who experiences it.

The researcher, therefore, aims to reveal how and why reality is constructed, as it is experienced, and the factors that condition its evolution.

A study aims to understand all the factors that influence behavior, including those of which the person or the organization studied is not aware. The perspective of a qualitative study is to go beyond the rationality of individual choices and to understand, through a series of techniques, everything that can influence decisions that economic theory would like to be rational.

Conversely, the qualitative study is not intended to quantify a frequency. Saying, for example, that such and such a factor was detected in x% of the interviews makes no sense.

Qualitative research can be carried out at different scales. In B2C, the behavior studied can indeed be that of:

  • of an individual
  • of a small group
  • of a segment (large group)
  • of a country, of a culture

The same type of reasoning can be applied to the context of the company in the case of a B2B study. A qualitative study in B2B can thus study:

  • A person exercising a certain function in a company (CEO, HR manager, etc.)
  • the operation of a business
  • the practices of people performing the same functions within different companies
  • companies in the same sector
  • companies from the same country

It is important to understand when best ghost writers for hire research is appropriate and when it is not. This will prevent you from making methodological errors.

The diagram below, created by our agency, is a decision aid.

The question of choosing one or another method is often asked. There is no one method better than another. As we explain in our step-by-step guide to market research, the two methods are complementary.

When carrying out a market study, it is advisable to carry out the qualitative study before the quantitative study:

  • The qualitative study makes it possible to qualify the phenomenon studied
  • The quantitative study makes it possible to quantify the factors that influence this phenomenon.

The objective of the project determines the type of study (qualitative and/or quantitative) to be carried out.

To help you choose the right method, here are some contexts where qualitative research can be applied in all cases.

Reconstructing a customer journey

The customer journey is inherently a complex concept that involves many stages that can vary from one individual to another. The interviews will make it possible to reconstruct the different stages of the individual journey before proposing a summary.

Define a customer experience

The customer experience is a fairly complex construct that calls on many subjective perceptions. Qualitative research is a good way to explore these perceptions based on an interview guide covering the 6 pillars of the customer experience.

Launch an innovative product/service

Developing and then launching an innovative product/service is particularly complicated. This requires having fully understood the needs of the target users, including the needs that are not clearly expressed (or unconscious needs). It is therefore not a priori possible to ask them closed questions.

Qualitative research is an appropriate approach to this kind of exercise because it allows you to go “to the bottom of things”, to fully understand the springs of a need.

Understand the different facets of customer service

Although the “customer service” construct has been the subject of many studies allowing for quantitative analysis (see the SERVQUAL scale of Parasuraman et al., 1988), the qualitative approach remains useful. The latter allows us to go beyond the figures to understand the reality of what is experienced by the client.

The qualitative approach may be particularly suitable for studying situations in which customer service has been poor. It gives the company the means to understand dysfunctions more precisely and to correct them.

Analyze a purchase decision

A purchase decision often responds to complex constraints, of which the customer is not necessarily aware. A study by questionnaire is therefore prohibited.

For recurring purchasing decisions, a semi-directed interview or a focus group are suitable. For complex or rare decisions (purchase of real estate, for example), an individual interview of the “life history” type is to be preferred.

Examples of qualitative studies in B2C

It should be specified for all intents and purposes that a B2C study aims to understand the functioning of a “natural person” as a consumer or end user.

Adoption of a social selling platform

In this study we explored the propensity of consumers, in a context of crisis, to make group purchases of non-food products.

Interest in anti-pollution cosmetics

The study aimed to understand the needs of active women in terms of cosmetic care and to analyze their understanding of the “anti-pollution” positioning of face creams

Analysis of the needs of blind people

This study aimed to understand the difficulties of blind people in Belgium. The study was carried out in-situ, that is to say in people’s homes. In doing so, the difficulties of daily life could be approached and illustrated by specific examples. In addition, the people interviewed were able to directly show examples of solutions implemented or problems encountered.

Cancellation analysis for a telecom operator

Avoiding customer attrition is the major challenge for telecom operators. Understanding the reasons that lead a customer to cancel is a complex exercise. It is indeed necessary to identify the reasons which triggered the dissatisfaction, to replace them in time (customer journey), but also to understand the decision-making dynamics. For this qualitative study, we conducted interviews in the customers’ families and interviewed the various members in order to highlight the role that each had played in reaching the termination decision.

Qualitative research is often an essential part of B2B market research. In the context of the company, it is indeed much more complicated to use quantitative techniques.

Analysis of the decision cycle

This type of analysis aims to understand how decisions are made in companies, where the need arises and how it spreads. It is important to understand the book publishing companies that resonate with the various stakeholders so that they can be put forward in the context of operational marketing.

Analysis of external constraints on the functioning of companies

This type of analysis finds all its raison d’être in crisis contexts (Covid, energy crisis). These contexts can have various effects on companies but also on the people who work there. The qualitative study will therefore make sure to analyze the effects on the structure on the one hand, and on the people on the other. Understanding how the performance of one affects the performance of the other is also essential.

Analysis of interest in an innovative service

This type of project is a classic. Companies that innovate constantly need to understand the current and future needs of their customers and prospects. The quantitative study being very complicated in B2B, the qualitative study is the royal way to obtain this information.


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