Listening to your customers is both an art and a science.  One way to effectively listen to your customers is by performing qualitative research.

Qualitative research is a method of developing insights using techniques such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and/or observing customers in their own environment (ethnographics).

Here are 9 reasons why your brand needs to conduct in-person qualitative research regularly:

  1. Face to face:  Although distance research is valuable, nothing can replace face-to-face interactions. Tone, body language, and facial expressions are essential to understanding the attitude and emotions of your customers.
  2. In-depth:  Qualitative research typically affords an opportunity to speak with your customers over a span of several hours. A good moderator will keep the conversation engaging. This length of time simply cannot be replicated online or in point-of-purchase interactions.
  3. Iterative:  Qualitative research is an adaptive research process that allows the team to learn iteratively. Details like question phrasing, order, and tone matter. A question leads to a response which may lead to a different question which then leads to an even more valuable response.  
  4. Personalized:  Every participant is different. With qualitative research, the moderator can adjust their style and questions dynamically. For example, if a participant is having trouble with recall, the moderator can move on to something else and come back to the question later.
  5. Collaborative:  When conducted among others as part of a focus group, qualitative research allows participants to learn from each other. Some participants may have difficulty expressing themselves and the process of allowing them to build on each other’s ideas provides insights that may not have been otherwise identified.
  6. Moderator Interaction:  You can learn from how your moderator interacts with research participants. A good moderator will quickly establish rapport with your customers – exactly what you want your brand to do. Watching how your moderator phrases questions, reveals information about herself/himself, and gets to know the participants will provide insight.
  7. The Unusual:  You can identify and learn from the unusual. There are a lot of unusual people out there interacting with your product. Some may be non-targets but take the opportunity to understand if their characteristics are relevant to your core audience.
  8. The Tapes (watch them!):   Although nothing can replace attending research in-person, the next best thing is watching the recordings. As part of your onboarding process, new employees should be encouraged (if not required) to watch the most current research.
  9. Get Ready For Quantitative Research:   In order to make broad, quantifiable conclusions about your market,  you will need to field quantitative research. Qualitative research allows you to generate the hypothesis and question sets to frame your quantitative research. Conducting qualitative research prior to quantitative research will improve the accuracy and reliability of your insights.

Qualitative research is not only important to your strategic development but also reminds management about the thoughts and emotions driving consumer behavior. Qualitative research can be an invaluable tool in understanding your customers better than your competitors, which when capitalized appropriately leads to sustained growth.