I have a confession to make. I was a little apprehensive about joining a predominately qualitative research agency. I had visions of being banished to a special room where Excel wasn’t blocked, or being made to sit in the ‘geeky datahead’ corner, (I mean, this part is half true; #JillRazor does sit in the corner, but that’s purely because she chooses to!)

The truth is, as much as running focus groups and being responsible for helping to guide the discussion of a room of opinionated folk fills me with pure terror (I’ve done it before, and I’m gonna say I didn’t love it!), splitting us into buckets of ‘quali’ vs. ‘quanty’ is neither helpful nor accurate. Though there’s no denying that some of the core skills required do differ, we are actually quite nicely clustered together under one umbrella: ‘researchers’, ‘insight specialists’, ‘the voice of the consumer’.

Whatever you want to call it, our main aim is to uncover truths about consumer behaviour and to interpret these into a clear and actionable narrative for our clients; facilitating storytelling, if you will.

We’ll delve further into the world of data-led storytelling in one of our future blog instalments. For now, I wanted to strip this right back to talk about the start of the process; designing a research programme to help us get to these human truths. How people really feel.

Qual & quant methods aren’t as different as people initially think. After all, the fundamentals of crafting a solid questionnaire are the same key principles that apply to a strong discussion guide. Being focused enough to help answer the client’s key question(s) without being restrictive, considering rules like “spontaneous before prompted, general before specific”… The blurring of lines between qualitative and quantitative research has gone on for some time; so why is it that we still pigeon-hole ourselves so much in our research professions?

There are some common misconceptions about quant research. It often gets a bad rep for being boring, restrictive and not properly reflecting how people really feel. I’ve heard it time and time again, ‘how would you do that using an online survey?!’.

Well, times are changing! It’s no real secret that quant research has come a long way over the years from hideous grids and one dimensional questions. We’re continuously implementing new methods that bring quant even closer to qual.

  • Engaging respondents. Survey design is an area of increased focus, making the research as visual and fun for people to answer as possible. Showing images (personalising them) and mixing up the type of question (in terms of both the way they are asked and what respondents have to do to answer them). These are all principles that also apply to qualitative methods; simply making it personal, interesting and varied enough to encourage the people we’re talking to to really open up about their thoughts.

  • Top-of-mind questioning. A nod to the now widely-recognised fact that humans are quick and instinctive in their decision-making. Placing respondents under time pressure means they’re purely answering in an implicit way rather than being too rational or considered in their thought process. This is not only a more engaging way for respondents to answer, but yields much more natural and genuine responses.

  • Reading emotions. Only 7% of communication is verbal. In the same way that a moderator reads emotion during a session to unpick what is going on under the surface (the unsaid nuances), this is now becoming more common in the world of quant. Biometric methods have exploded over the past few years and technology that reads facial expressions on respondent webcams is bringing emotional analysis to a much broader audience than ever before.

These are just a few ways that the wonderful world of quant is getting more and more interesting. We can only expect this to continue, as both the desire and the technology shifts traditional quant to be more like ‘quali-quant’. Quant that is more engaging, emotive and real.

In our budding quant team we’re continuously keeping an eye on these new developments, as well as working alongside our fabulous fellow Razors to come up with engaging mixed-method approaches to delight our clients with!


To speak with our experts, contact Jill Sarsfield or Jo Coombes on email or call us on +44 (0)20 3865 1075.