Quantitative research is the process of gathering observable data to answer a research question using statistical, computational, or mathematical techniques. It is often seen as more accurate or valuable than qualitative research, which focuses on gathering non-numerical data.
Qualitative research looks at opinions, concepts, characteristics, and descriptions. Quantitative research looks at measurable, numerical relationships. Both kinds of research have their advantages and disadvantages.
How Can Businesses Use Quantitative Research?
Research benefits small businesses by helping you make informed decisions. Conducting market research should be a regular part of any business plan, allowing you to grow efficiently and make good use of your available resources.
Businesses can use research to:
- Learn more about customer opinions and buying patterns.
- Test new products and services before launching them.
- Make decisions about product packaging, branding, and other visual elements.
- Understand patterns in your market or industry.
- Analyze the behavior of your competitors.
- Identify the best use of your marketing resources.
- Compare how successful different promotions will be before scaling up.
- Decide on where new locations or stores should be.
When deciding what type of research will benefit your business, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of quantitative research.
Advantages of Quantitative Research
The use of statistical analysis and hard numbers found in quantitative research has distinct advantages in the research process.
- Can be tested and checked. Quantitative research requires careful experimental design and the ability for anyone to replicate both the test and the results. This makes the data you gather more reliable and less open to argument.
- Straightforward analysis. When you collect quantitative data, the type of results will tell you which statistical tests are appropriate to use. As a result, interpreting your data and presenting those findings is straightforward and less open to error and subjectivity.
- Prestige. Research that involves complex statistics and data analysis is considered valuable and impressive because many people don't understand the mathematics involved. Quantitative research is associated with technical advancements like computer modeling, stock selection, portfolio evaluation, and other data-based business decisions. The association of prestige and value with quantitative research can reflect well on your small business.
Disadvantages of Quantitative Research
However, the focus on numbers found in quantitative research can also be limiting, leading to several disadvantages.
- False focus on numbers. Quantitative research can be limited in its pursuit of concrete, statistical relationships, which can lead to researchers overlooking broader themes and relationships. By focusing solely on numbers, you run the risk of missing surprising or big-picture information that can benefit your business.
- Difficulty setting up a research model. When you conduct quantitative research, you need to carefully develop a hypothesis and set up a model for collecting and analyzing data. Any errors in your set up, bias on the part of the researcher, or mistakes in execution can invalidate all your results. Even coming up with a hypothesis can be subjective, especially if you have a specific question that you already know you want to prove or disprove.
- Can be misleading. Many people assume that because quantitative research is based on statistics it is more credible or scientific than observational, qualitative research. However, both kinds of research can be subjective and misleading. The opinions and biases of a researcher are just as likely to impact quantitative approaches to information gathering. In fact, the impact of this bias occurs earlier in the process of quantitative research than it does in qualitative research.
Tips for Conducting Quantitative Research
If you decide to conduct quantitative research for your small business,
- Work with a professional. Professional market researchers and data analysts are trained in how to conduct survey research and run statistical models. To ensure that your research is well-designed and your results are accurate, work with a professional. If you can't afford to hire researchers for the length of the project, look for someone who can help just with set-up or analysis.
- Have a clear research question. To save time and resources, have a clear idea of what question you want answered before you begin researching. You can find areas that need research by looking at your marketing plan and identifying where you struggle to make an informed decision.
- Don't be afraid to change your model. Research is a process, and needing to change direction or start over doesn't mean you have failed or done something wrong. Often, successful research will raise new questions. Keep track of those new questions so that you can continue answering them as you move forward.
- Combine quantitative and qualitative research. Successfully running a small business relies on understanding people, and the behavior of your customers and competitors cannot be reduced to numbers. As you conduct quantitative research, try to collect qualitative data as well. This can take the form of open-ended questions on surveys, panel discussions, or even just keeping track of opinions or concerns that customers share. By combining the two types of research, you'll end up with the best possible picture of how your business can grow and succeed within its market.