August 9, 2018

Putting Numbers Behind It: Exploring Quantitative Research

quantitative research
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Tyler Cusmina

Author
Senior Market Research Manager, TL Health

In our last article we looked into qualitative research and how it can be used as preliminary, exploratory research. (In case you missed it, you can find the article here) In this article, we are going to look at the other main type of market research: quantitative research.

Similar to the first article, we will be taking a deeper dive into quantitative research by answering the following questions:

  • What is quantitative research?
  • When should I conduct quantitative research?
  • What should the goals be of my quantitative research study?
  • How do I best implement a quantitative research study?
  • What are some examples of quantitative research?
  • What are the pros and cons of quantitative research?

We hope that by the time you are finished reading this article, you will have increased your knowledge of quantitative research. Combine this with the insights you gained from our qualitative research article, and you should have a better understanding of market research as a whole!

What is quantitative research?

To begin, let’s start by defining what quantitative research is. Quantitative research is a structured form of research that uses statistical, mathematical and computational tools to quantify collected findings so researches can make more informed decisions.

These findings can either come from internal knowledge or previous qualitative studies. It then takes these outputs and quantifies the results to the broader population to see if your findings are statistically significant.

When should I conduct quantitative research?

Now that you have a better definition as to what quantitative research is, it is now time to consider when you should conduct a quantitative research study. As mentioned previously, quantitative research is used to quantify your hypotheses. Quantitative research is typically used when you already have a thorough understanding of the issues and now you want to determine which factors are most important to maximize the opportunity. 

You should conduct quantitative research when:

  1. You are trying to quantify the findings from your qualitative research
  2. You want to make a business decision
  3. You want to comprehend the relationship and drivers of behavior using statistical methods
  4. You want to confirm your conclusions/hypotheses
  5. You want a better understanding of which market dynamics will offer the largest opportunity

What should the goals be of my quantitative research study?

After you have determined that a quantitative research study is the correct form of research you should be using, it is now time to construct the goals of your research.

The goal of your quantitative research should be to increase the level of confidence around your assumptions so that you can make an informed business decision that is backed by statistically significant data.

Below is a list of some quantitative research goals:

  • Predict your product’s performance
  • Determine which product attributes are most important to your target audience to drive sales
  • Discover your brand’s position in the mind of your customer
  • Identify your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

How do I best implement a quantitative research study?

Once you have identified the goal(s) of your study, it is now time to conduct the research. Quantitative research is most often done via online surveys because they are easily accessible and allow the researcher to utilize multiple mediums including: written questions, pictures, sound and video. Although online surveys are most commonly used, it is important to note that they are not the only means of collecting quantitative data.

The first step to conducting any research project is identifying who your target audience will be. This is probably the most important part of the research because the best designed research will not deliver if you are talking to the wrong people.

After you determine who your target audience should be, you will then need to determine a sample size. The sample size you choose will be based on the population size of your target audience, your desired confidence level (how certain you are that your research results will hold true for the entire population) and your desired margin of error (the range around your confidence level in which the true value could lie.)

Once you have selected your target audience and the appropriate sample size, it is then time to develop your research questionnaire.

Some things to keep in mind when creating your questionnaire are:

  • Create questions focused around your research goal/avoid discussing too many topics in one survey
  • Be sure not to ask leading or ambiguous questions
  • Use plain English and try not to overcomplicate questions
  • Keep the length of your questionnaire short, 30-40 minutes
  • Strive for mostly close-ended questions (ex. multiple choice, yes / no, or True False) as these are quantifiable and can be backed by statistical rigor

After you have written your questionnaire, it is time to test the questionnaire on a small sample of your target population to ensure there are no ambiguous terms or questions. Once this is completed, you are now ready to program and distribute your survey.

The next steps, after you have collected your responses, are to clean, tabulate and analyze your results. Unlike the qualitative research report, which is very text heavy, the quantitative research report should consist mostly of charts, graphs and statistics. Testing your results for statistical significance is one of the main benefits of using quantitative research and is an important part of your final report. A good quantitative report should also consist of an Executive Summary that aligns with the study objectives outlined in the proposal.  This report should identify up to five key takeaways or actions based off your research. 

What are some examples of quantitative research?

Now that we have established how to conduct a quantitative research study, lets look at a couple of examples of quantitative research.

There are countless types of quantitative research, but below are a few of the main ones:

New Product Discovery Research

New product discovery research is used to help companies develop an understanding of which product attributes are most important and offer the greatest potential for their product. New product discovery research can also be used to help design clinical trials by establishing trial endpoints or identifying appropriate product comparators. In addition, this type of research evaluates which market offers the most opportunity.

Awareness, Trial and Utilization Research (ATU)

The ATU is the bread and butter of your quantitative research and is typically run both pre and post launch every six months to a year.  It is the bread and butter because it tracks a product throughout its life cycle. It evaluates your product versus the competitive products most relevant to the success of your brand, their current level of usage and what is driving utilization. This gives you good insight as to the position your product owns in the minds of your customers. The ATU helps you understand the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats within the market and gives you clear direction on what it takes to become number one. 

Positioning Research

Another type of quantitative research that is critical to the success of your product is positioning research. Positioning research establishes what space you hope to own in the mind of your customer when it comes to key attributes like efficacy, side effects and safety and how hard you will or won’t have to work to capture market share.  Positioning research also leads to your marketing messages and concepts. It helps you establish points of differentiation within your market, so you may own a specific spot within the mind of your customer.

Benchmark Research

Benchmark research is used to compare your brand against the competition across a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This type of research is critical for the continual growth of your brand and to measure brand health. It shows you in which areas your brand is excelling, and which areas may need some improvement. Benchmark research also gives insight into market trends and the preferences of your target audience.

What are the pros and cons of quantitative research?

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the quantitative research process, it is important to consider the pros and cons of quantitative research.

Below is a list of some of the pros and cons of quantitative research:

Pros

  • Results are quantifiable
  • Findings can be backed by statistical rigor
  • Confirms/denies the findings from qualitative research
  • Provides insights into market dynamics
  • Helps in making a business decision
  • Brings clarity to a topic

Cons

  • Does not allow for deep discussion/exploration of a topic
  • Takes the “human element” out of survey responses
  • Not good for initial idea/hypothesis generation
  • Difficult to conduct if you do not already have a thorough understanding of your topic

Summary

Quantitative research is a great tool to bring clarity to your ideas and hypotheses. It is a structured research approach that quantifies results and backs them through statistical methods.

Most quantitative research studies are conducted via online surveys as these are quick and easy to administer. Conducting a quantitative research study includes: selecting your target audience and sample size, writing a questionnaire, programming and distributing your survey, analyzing and compiling your results and creating the final research report of your key findings.

Quantitative research is a necessary tool for businesses to make informed decisions. Hopefully, after reading this article, you now have a better understanding of quantitative research and will feel more comfortable using it!

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Tyler Cusmina

Tyler has seven years of pharmaceutical experience working in Market Research and Pharmaceutical Sales. Tyler holds a BA in Marketing from the Temple University Fox School of Business and a Certificate of Proficiency in Quantitative Analysis Field Of Study Data Analysis from the Burke Institute.

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