One of the biggest myths about qualitative data is that it isn’t actionable. That it needs to be used in conjunction with quant to uncover the real story. But just like quant, its ability to be actionable is completely linked with its level of data quality. In the case of qualitative research, QUALITY comes from expertise, methodology, and proper rigor.
Expertise: Interpreting the Say-Do Gap
The Say-Do gap is a well-documented struggle for anyone collecting qualitative data. In short, this is the difference between what someone says and what they actually do. It takes years of building expertise to see through the stories people tell about themselves.
The truth is, people don’t know exactly why they do the things they do. They make most decisions non-consciously. We have studied underlying motivations and nonverbal communication in context and have spent decades learning to uncover the truth by piecing together observed behavior vs stated attitudes. Quality research uncovers the deeper “whys” behind the say-do gap, which is where the opportunity for growth lies.
Methodology: Real answers in real contexts
If you ask a hypothetical question, you will get a hypothetical answer. To avoid the hypothetical, you need to bring in real-life context. People don’t do things in a vacuum. They behave based on the who, what, where, when, and why of their current situation. Data that comes from people in real environments with authentic mindsets delivers quality, nuanced results that go far deeper than just a data point.
Rigor: The Answer Depends on Who You Ask
Qual deals with some of the same respondent quality issues as quant. Panels are very convenient, but they are filled with what we call “professional respondents.” These are people who take so many surveys, attend so many focus groups, and participate in so many simulations that they know what to look for and what you want to hear.
By focusing on real, in-context research, we capture authentic behavior and reactions from real-life consumers – not professional respondents. When we do recruit respondents, they go through our vetting process to ensure they are everyday people who aren’t familiar with the research process so we know we are producing quality data.
Qualitative studies that are grounded in the science of human behavior, leverage methods to ensure meaningful responses, and prioritize in-context decision making will give you the quality you are looking for to make critical decisions.