Methods for collecting qualitative data include:
Talking to someone one-on-one allows a researcher to cover more ground than may be covered if a respondent was completing a survey. The reason lies with the researcher’s ability to dig deeper into a respondent’s comments to find out additional details that might not emerge from initial responses.
Unfortunately, individual interviewing can be quite expensive and may be intimidating to some who are not comfortable sharing details with a researcher.
Watching customers as they perform activities can be a very useful research method, especially when customers are observed in a natural setting (e.g., shopping in a retail store, using products at home). In fact, an emerging research technique called ethnographic research has researchers following customers as they shop, work, and relax at home in order to see how they make decisions, use products and more.
To overcome the drawbacks associated with personal interviews, marketers can turn to focus groups. Under this research format, a group of respondents (generally numbering 8-12) are guided through discussion by a moderator. The power of focus groups as a research tool rests with the environment created by the interaction of the participants. In well-run sessions, members of the group are stimulated to respond by the comments and the support of others in the group. In this way, the depth of information offered by a respondent may be much greater than that obtained through individual interviews.
However, focus groups can be costly to conduct especially if participants must be paid. To help reduce costs, online options for focus groups have emerged. While there are many positive aspects to online focus groups, the fact that respondents are not physically present diminishes the benefits gained by group dynamics. However, as technology improves, in particular video conferencing, the online focus group could become a major research option.