What is quantitative research?
Quantitative research is a strategy that uses quantifiable data to uncover marketing patterns and articulate facts. It comprises performing statistical, mathematical, and computational techniques for the collection and analysis of data. You can quantify attitudes, opinions, behaviors- basically any defined variable, with logic and objectivity.
Data collection happens through sampling methods. This data may be represented in numerical forms or usable statistics. The process is central to quantitative research as it explains the fundamental connection between the empirical and mathematical expression of quantitative relationships.
Quantitative data collection methods are structured and close-ended and hence are popularly used in market research for conclusive and unassailable results.
Background to quantitative research
Quantitative research is a successful method to answer questions based on long-term patterns of change. Assembling substantial amounts of countable and numeric data and organizing it into tab data matrices for statistical analysis giving great results. Initially, the focus was on the history of social structure, economic growth, and change trends, or the patterns and records of intergenerational social mobility and living standards. Recently, the usage has proliferated. Studying more versatile fields became possible. This was an explosive growth in the data sets informing quantitative research.
By the 1940s, there were rules and procedures for collecting quantitative data for intricate tabulation and analysis. Social scientists set conventions: methods such as the fixed-format data matrix, the classification of variables into the nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio variables, the organization of questionnaires and survey forms to facilitate conversion to punch-cards for analysis, and coding systems such as the Likert scale. Today, we have a method of research that is efficacious in market research of this time and age.
Key elements to quantitative research
Market researchers who use quantitative research methods typically look to quantify and accentuate objective measurements through polls, questionnaires, surveys, or by manipulating existing statistical data by using computational techniques. When we get to the intricacies of how to go about quantitative research in the market world, these key elements will determine the success of your study.
1. Game plan
There should be a clear-cut idea as to how to go about the research with a specific goal and plan of action. This also ensures smooth execution and minimization of wastage of time and resources.
2. Sample Size
Quantitative research best suits a large number of audiences to ensure reliability. The sample size in quantitative research represents the whole target market so as to be as accurate and objective as possible.
3. Research Methods
Research methods are highly structured such as questionnaires, polls, and surveys to increase the scope for profound factual insight into the study.
Close-ended questions are effective as responses to them have more accuracy and precision comparatively. Responses to open-ended questions are more detailed and scattered. It requires skill, time, and effort to dissect them. This is why close-ended questions are more reliable and feasible. The answers to the research questions should also be in numerical form to derive meticulous conclusions.
The outcome of quantitative research methods needs to be highly reliable, easy to convey and explain. Many scholars and researchers study and analyze the outcome of previous research to establish their hypothesis. Data from one research purpose may be subject to a prior study of another research problem. This reduces the expense and time for conducting research on related studies freshly.
Objectives of quantitative research
Quantitative research methods are apt for descriptive, correlational, and experimental research:
- Descriptive research: Your sole objective is to examine the summary of your study variables.
- Correlational research: You investigate in detail the relationships among your study variables.
- Experimental objectives: You systematically examine whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between variables.
Approaches to quantitative research
Descriptive research: This research attempts to describe the current status of an identified variable. These research projects are appropriate for systematic information about a phenomenon. The researchers usually do not begin with a hypothesis, but will likely collect data and develop one. The analysis and of the data decides the flow and structure of the hypothesis.
This method attempts to determine a relationship between two or more variables using statistical forms of data. Here, relationships among a pattern of facts are sought after and then interpreted. This type of research will recognize trends in data, does not go so far in its analysis to prove causes for the observations.
Causal-comparative research or quasi-experimental research attempts to establish cause and effect relationships among variables. An independent variable is identified but not manipulated by the experimenter. The effects of the independent on the dependent variable go through the analysis. The researcher only uses groups for research that are naturally formed or are already pre-existing, to ensure a variable untainted by manipulation.
True experimentation uses the scientific method to establish the cause-effect relationship among a group of variables that make up a study. A true experiment is a study where an effort is made to identify and impose control over all the other variables except one. An independent variable helps determine the effects on the dependent variables.
Quantitative research methods
Multiple techniques of statistical research are vital in conducting quantitative market research. Some of the most common and widely used forms are:
Close-ended questions form an integral part of these surveys as they are more efficient when collecting quantitative data. Surveys are integral in collecting feedback from an audience larger than the conventional size. A critical factor about surveys is that the responses collected should be in a form that can be generalized to the whole population without major discrepancies. Quantitative market research has two major methods of conducting surveys:
1. Cross-sectional research survey
This is a quantitative market research method that analyzes data of variables collected at one given point of time across a sample group or a pre-defined subset. This method involves people having similarities in every socio-demographic but the one under research.
2. Longitudinal research survey
This is a quantitative market research method where research happens over a long period of time on target demographic markets or a specific group of people to collect statistical data.
Traditionally face-to-face interviews, but more recent studies happen online. Quantitative interviews are intricately structured and play a key role in collecting data. Here, there are two major types:
1. Face-to-Face Interviews
In essence, an interviewer prepares a list of important questions that are related to but exclude the survey questions already asked to glean more detailed data. An interviewer can manage to bond with the interviewee on a personal level which will help improve the clarity of responses. Interviewers can also ask for detailed explanations and clarify any doubts and avoid wrongful interpretations.
2. Online/Telephonic Interviews
These interviews have a great advantage; irrespective of the distance between the participants and their corresponding time zones, communication is extremely convenient and easily accessible.
Limitations to quantitative research
- Statistical data isn’t always complete. Data can be collected from a huge number of people but the qualitative aspect of the answer cannot be determined numerically, and is only actionable with numbers, concrete explanations do not back up the data.
- Structured interviews and questionnaires. The biggest strength of quantitative market research questions is the limited scope to digress from a structured answer.
- The sample size isn’t indicative of a larger population. If the participants have attributes dissimilar to those of a larger demographic, the data cannot represent a larger sample as that would be inaccurate.
Self-reporting data is not trustworthy. People when given the liberty to respond to a survey might not give accurate responses for a variety of reasons such as skepticism of how much data they should be giving out. Hence, if the responses are incorrect and random, it invalidates the results of the data analysis.
These marketing research methods are best for gathering opinions and perspectives on a certain product and deriving results for data-oriented decision-making. When there’s a new product launch or upgrade, quantitative market research is apt to know how the target audience will react and gather feelers on the adaptability of the product. Moreover, quantitative methods are a crucial part of market research for their structured and objective approach to collecting and analyzing data.