Fortifying Your Market Research with the Qualitative Survey

Fortifying Your Market Research with the Qualitative Survey

qualitative survey

Qualitative research is critical for performing market research. Using what’s known as the qualitative survey is the most potent instrument researchers can apply to garner data for this kind of research. 

It’s important to be able to distinguish between qualitative and quantitative surveys when delving into either of these main types of survey research methods. As such, this article will focus on the qualitative survey, its corresponding research method, best practices and other considerations worth being mindful of.

With these key insights, you’ll be able to get your qualitative research up in running in no time.

Defining the Qualitative Survey

This type of survey is characterized by its adherence to qualitative research, that is, it seeks to gain descriptive insights on a topic, rather than measuring it.

A qualitative survey is predicated on digging into the details behind a topic. It also seeks to find causality and motivations. This provides details around happenings, opinions, beliefs and sentiments. 

In short, it helps brands understand their target market’s psyche, as opposed to measuring for prevalence and other metrics.  

This kind of survey is far less structured than a quantitative survey; it also makes more use of open-ended questions. While it provides a great deal of knowledge, this survey data can be more difficult to analyze.  

When to Use a Qualitative Survey in Your Research Endeavors

A qualitative survey can be used in the beginning of your market research, or as a way to complement research you’ve already begun conducting. There are specific points during your market or survey research that you can best tend to with a qualitative survey. Here are several such cases:

  1. Mapping out a hypothesis: A qualitative survey is an excellent way to both form a hypothesis and test it. As you begin your research process, this survey can help you find the most glaring issues and desires your target market has on their minds. These can help you form hypotheses that you can prove through quantitative research. You can also test your hypotheses with follow-up qualitative surveys.
  2. When numbers and scales aren’t enough: Usually, a scaled survey isn’t enough — neither is one with visual ratings (hearts, stars, etc.). A qualitative survey can benefit your study to completely flesh out the themes, sentiments and general makeup of an occurrence. 
  3. Finding the “why” behind a phenomenon: You can administer a qualitative survey for this point in the middle of your research process. For instance, if you’ve run several quantitative surveys or even a qualitative survey, you will have gathered insightful data on the big picture of a topic. But there may be a few missing pieces, especially regarding the why behind an occurrence or firmly held belief. That’s where you would do further probing with this type of survey.
  4. Discovering Latent Details: Although these details may be covert, they can help crack a customer experience (CX) or employment satisfaction puzzle. Whereas quantitative surveys help unlock the number of times something occurs or if it occurs in the grand scheme of things, qualitative surveys can help bring hidden details into light. By asking qualitative questions, you can uncover a gold mine when it comes to pleasing customers, as you’ll understand them in greater depth.
  5. Putting together the final stages of your market research: Often conducted after gathering quantitative findings, you can use a qualitative survey to wrap up your research. There may be times in which you need more details to understand the results of a previous survey. Or there may be some key aspects that you feel you need to find to complete your research. The qualitative survey is a good closer for these needs. 

How to Get Started on Formulating a Qualitative Survey

You may have several ideas on the direction you desire your qualitative research to take. When opting for a qualitative survey, there are certain tips you can stand to learn. The following presents certain key practices to take into consideration when embarking on this survey method. 

  1. Find a strong online survey platform to execute your research. Here are a few things to look for in online survey tools.
  2. Discover the chief campaign of your qualitative research needs. Are you looking to improve your branding? Do you need insights on a specific industry, such as the technology industry
    1. Then, find the main need for this application. Or perhaps, see if there are some missing qualitative data you would need to acquire. 
  3. Create an overall theme for a survey, or for multiple surveys.
  4. Begin with one survey at a time; first, gather the target audience of the survey. You can appeal to your general target market, or to a segment of it. 
  5. Draft your questions and get observations/commentary from other researchers or colleagues.
  6. Launch your survey and carefully read over your responses. Cross-reference the answers with quantitative surveys, especially if your quantitative survey is underpinned by quantitative research you’ve already begun.
  7. Iterate with another survey if need be.
  8. Analyze your responses to find motivations and find deeper insights into themes and opinions. 
  9. Layout a plan of action for your broader campaign based on your analyses.
  10. Take small steps; don’t rush (unless you’re facing a crisis). Start implementing some of the changes or accommodations for your target market. Or, finish your research with a presentation of your discoveries. 

Questions and Surveys to Use in a Qualitative Survey

qualitative survey

A qualitative survey can exist in a variety of formats. We’ve covered a wide variety of survey research methods and survey types themselves. Since qualitative studies can be applied across a number of survey types, you ought to know how to orient your questions around several of them.

Here are a few question examples of qualitative surveys. You can also add qualitative elements to surveys that are not specifically geared for qualitative research.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) Survey Questions:

Along with the Ultimate Question, aka the main NPS survey question, use the following to extract qualitative data. (This question typically asks respondents on a scale of 1-10, how likely they are to recommend a company to others.)

  • Why is it that you’ve ranked us with this score? [open-ended]
  • What do you like the most about our company?  [open-ended]
  • What services or products do you enjoy the most from our brand?  [open-ended or multiple choice]
  • What are some of the things that we can do to improve how you view our brand?

Customer Loyalty Survey Questions:

Consumer loyalty is a widely-encompassing quality that can be evaluated in a number of market research studies. This includes using the Repeat Purchase Rate and Customer Lifetime Value metrics. Additionally, the notion of customer loyalty has several of its own surveys. 

  • Do you consider [brand] to be high-quality? Why or why not? [multiple choice and open-ended]
  • Would you return to make more purchases from us? Why or why not? [multiple choice and open-ended]
  • Why have you bought [x number of times, carry forwarded from previous numerical question] from us? [open-ended]
  • Why are you [either considering yourself a loyal customer or not, piped from previous yes or no question]? [open-ended]

Product Satisfaction Survey Questions:

  • Which features do you find most useful from this product?  [multiple choice]
  • How would you rate the product’s ease of use and why? [open-ended and multiple choice]
  • Have you experienced any issues with the product, if so what are they? [open-ended and multiple choice]
  • How has your general experience been with our product? [open-ended]

Retrospective Survey Questions:

Although these surveys are typically used in the fields of medicine and psychology, they too can be applied to the business market research sphere. Used in retrospective studies, these surveys scrutinize events that have taken place in the past (including the distant past).

  • Which aspects in your [in-store, over the phone or online] experience have contributed to the way you shop today?  [open-ended and multiple choice]
  • How long have you been taking part in/buying [habit, product or brand]? [multiple-choice]
  • Have you used in the past and how has it shaped what you currently use for your [niche] needs? [open-ended and multiple choice]
  • Why have you bought/chosen from [brand/product] for [x number] of years/months? [open-ended]

Event Evaluation Survey Question Examples:

  • What did you like the most about the event?  [open-ended]
  • What experience stuck out the most to you and why? [open-ended or multiple choice]
  • What could we do to improve your experience? [open-ended]
  • Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the event?  [open-ended]

Expanding Your Research Needs

Although the qualitative survey can help you unearth the “why” and “how” in your research on your target market, you’ll find that much like with quantitative surveys, it too can help you uncover more on the “what.” 

The difference is that this type of survey allows you to get more granular and in-depth on a subject matter, whereas quantitative surveys paint a clear picture of its measurements, metrics and other quantifiable data. 

Bear in mind that in the aforementioned qualitative question/survey types examples, each survey type is not intrinsically — or solely to be used for qualitative research. In fact, it often includes a mash-up of both qualitative and quantitative aspects.

This is natural in survey research, as both of these surveys and research types work in tandem. As such, make sure to add qualitative questions every now and then to your quantitative surveys. However, if you are looking purely for qualitative research, you can also attempt to conduct an entirely qualitative survey. The online survey tool you choose to apply is your best armor.

Frequently asked questions

What is a qualitative survey?

A qualitative survey is a type of survey that is focused on gathering descriptive insights and exploring motivations or causes for certain phenomena.

How are qualitative surveys different from quantitative surveys?

Quantitative surveys are focused on collecting data that can be assigned a numerical value in order to easily measure or quantify it. Quantitative surveys tend to answer the “what or who,” while qualitative surveys focus on the “why” or “how.”

What types of surveys can include qualitative questions?

Almost any type of survey can include qualitative questions, even if the bulk of the survey contains quantitative questions. Some of the most common survey types to include qualitative questions are the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey, customer loyalty survey, product satisfaction survey, and retrospective survey.

How can qualitative survey questions help expand your research?

If you have begun collecting data on a certain topic, but have yet to unlock the “why” or “how” behind that data, qualitative survey questions can provide the missing piece. By allowing you to dig deeper into the psyche of your respondents, you can uncover additional information or unexpected responses.

When should qualitative surveys be used?

Qualitative surveys can be used to complete existing research data in order to gain deeper insights. A qualitative survey can help you form a hypothesis, better understand your target audience, and/or figure out why something is happening.