Quantitative research and data is incredibly important for any business and is more important now than it has historically ever been. This post examines in detail why that is and how to make the most of all that data. It will explore the difference between qualitative and quantitative data and how market research is conducted. It also looks at the future of big data, machine learning algorithms and shopping recommendations that are based on incredibly smart quantitative data collection.
If you are conducting any kind of marketing campaign, then it is absolutely critical that you also collect data. Data collection should be the first step in any campaign in fact and it should inform everything that follows. That’s because research is what will allow you to assess the lay of the land before you then begin your campaign. It will allow you to know who is out there, whether or not there is an audience for what you’re planning to sell, and what the best way to reach and communicate with that audience is.
Market research involves the use of surveys and a range of other tools in order to collect this data. It also means looking at competitors’ websites, it means looking at industry statistics and it even means performing keyword research.
Quantitative research in particular, means that the data is numerical in nature. Data can generally be divided into two categories, which are quantitative and qualitative. Qualitative data is conversely the kind of data that is written and harder to display as a graph.
In a survey then, quantitative data is going to mean asking the right questions. That means asking questions that can only be answered with a binary or a numerical response. Binary means that the response has two answers (gender for the most part, married/unmarried) whereas numerical responses could mean something like an age.
Any categorization is also acceptable: you can ask location or interests as long as they are selecting from a multiple choice answer. This way, you can then create a bar chart for instance or a pie chart, showing how the audience can be categorized and what is the most popular category etc.
Quantitative VS Qualitative
Neither quantitative or qualitative data is ‘better’ than the other. The point is that both forms of data have their merits.
Qualitative data has the benefit of being more detailed and often including more emotion and insight. By getting people to write how they felt, their favorite part of an experience etc., then a company can get ideas and insights that they might otherwise have missed.
However, with qualitative data, it’s not possible to collate that data in quite the same way. You can’t so easily compare option A to option B as you might in a split test. You can’t so easily at a glance assess the state of the market or see what the best next course of action for you is.
All that said, it is possible to turn most qualitative data into quantitative using a system called qualitative analysis. Here, you take the transcript from an interview, or from a qualitative survey for instance, and then you seek out words that often repeat or crop up over and over again. By noting down each time the word comes up, you can look for consistency across large amounts of data.
Not every good idea is a good business. That doesn't mean that you can't still pursue the projects that you are passionate about, but if you are hoping to build a career around them then you need to make sure you subject your ideas to rigorous testing before you invest too much of your time or money.
Surveys provide you with a great way to collect qualitative feedback relatively cheaply. 'Qualitative' means that you are getting detailed and expansive answers that can pinpoint problems and suggest improvements, which is the most desirable kind of feedback for most commercial ventures. You can use survey sites to get this information cheaply, pay a company to collect market research from the general public, or even get outside yourself with a clipboard and a pen.
Focus groups involve getting groups of people together who will be representative of the market you are hoping to sell to. You'll then use a range of questions to once again get qualitative data regarding your product and the fact that you're talking to them in person will mean you're able to go into much more depth and follow up on questions you aren't sure about. This is a slightly more time consuming method compared with surveying however.
Crowdfunding means raising money from sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. This way you are asking the general public to back your projects for cash, and of course they only will if they are interested in potentially buying them. Better yet, when you launch a project on a crowdfunding site you'll find that you develop a relationship with your backers and that they are eager to provide ideas and feedback which can help you to get more of an idea of what people want your end product to be.
The web has opened up many new methods to get feedback regarding a business, a product or an invention. Many companies for instance have begun using social media in order to test the popularity of a concept – such as Razer who first unveiled their design for the 'Edge' gaming tablet on their Facebook page and stated that they would only develop it if it received enough 'likes' from their followers. This not only clearly demonstrated an existing market for their idea (assuming they got it right), but it also doubled up as a great marketing stunt.
You can then turn the data from any of these methods into quantitative data by looking at the number of likes for instance, by looking at the average age or demographic, etc.
These are just a few of the methods you can cheaply use to test the water for your new product, others include taking pre-orders and looking at the success of similar products. In short there is no reason to go blind into a market, and you should always be confident that your product will be a hit before you spend too much money.
Another form of marketing research that provides useful, quantitative data, is keyword research. This is an important part of search engine optimization and internet marketing and it essentially involved researching which search terms users use most often when looking for certain topics. Keyword research tools allow you to look up this kind of information and thereby see which topics are ‘hot’.
The main usefulness of keyword research is so that you can identify the best keywords to target. However, it can also be useful for a range of other things – such as simply finding out what people are currently interested in and any potentially hot topics for you to focus on in your marketing or even when designing products.
What’s also interesting to consider is the current trend for big data. Big data describes the massive data sets that are now possible thanks to modern technology. These tend to work through apps or websites that monitor user behavior and which can that way generate massive amounts of information regarding their shopping preferences, or their general habits. For instance, a diet app can help someone lose weight while also collecting billions of records regarding when people are likely to binge eat and what they eat etc. in order to sell to big companies.
This is possible through the use of databases that are stored on servers or even in the apps themselves. These include the likes of SQLIte and MySQL. SQL is Sequential Query Language and is used to retrieve, enter, delete, edit and manipulate those entries. The most powerful applications are now possible thanks to machine learning which applies algorithms to this data and then uses it in order to give shopping recommendations or even do more advanced things like voice recognition.
This is the future for quantitative data and it provides some insight into just how powerful this is! And even for a smaller company, collecting user data can be profitable in this way. If nothing else, you can consider buying data like this in order to inform your own choices when marketing.
Collecting data is one of the most important activities for any business, so make sure that you are doing it – whether through a survey on your own site, through web analytics or through a third party service.