I am often asked why should someone use qualitative research over quantitative research. Well, qualitative research can provide a rich, descriptive, valuable understanding into individuals' attitudes, beliefs, motivations, opinions, aspirations, lifestyles, and behaviors. Qualitative methods may be semi-structured or free flowing depending on the research questions and objectives, allowing the research to gain insight into the respondent in his or her own words.
There are several types of qualitative research that can be conducted. One is the traditional focus group where an on-site moderator facilitates a discussion with a particular respondent group of generally six or more people. This is useful for exploring topics on the spot and understanding the actual language respondents use about a particular topic. When needing to obtain in-depth discussions regarding a particular issue, individual responses can be conducted by an on-site moderator. However, in order to even get the amount of responses from a traditional focus group, it will take more time and labor. An on-line survey can be conducted by inviting the respondent to participate in a chat room at a particular time or an instant one-on-one interview with a live interviewer on the other side of the internet.
Through qualitative research, you can obtain insight in the respondent's own voice and they will be able to go into detail in their own words. This will help you understand the language individuals use to talk about a topic or idea and make your product or service more consumer friendly.
Recently a large manufacturing company conducted an interview at the home of a target audience participant. Through the interview, a diary was kept of how household products were used and determined what products performed well and what did not. This information provided the manufacturing company an important insight to help make products more efficient and to analyze where gaps existed.
With qualitative research you can discover new ideas which may help drive innovation by exploring a topic or idea with target audiences, and discovering motivations that underlie behavior.