Beyond Numbers: The Power of Qualitative Research in Shaping Brands

Feb. 07, 2024

Beyond Numbers: The Power of Qualitative Research in Shaping Brands

"You know, I keep hearing that we need to 'get into the minds of our customers,' but how exactly do we do that without becoming mind readers?"

"That's the million-dollar question, isn't it? I've been thinking, maybe it's time we dive deeper than just numbers and charts."

"Exactly. It's about getting to the heart of our customer's experiences, their needs, and desires. Qualitative research gives us that lens."

And so begins our journey into the world of Qualitative Market Research (QMR). A method that goes beyond the what and the how to uncover the why. In this edition, we'll explore the essence of QMR, its significance in today's market, and how it can transform data into actionable insights.

Imagine a brand at the crossroads of innovation, struggling to connect with its target audience. Despite having a groundbreaking product, their sales figures barely scratched the surface of their potential. The turning point? A deep dive into QMR.

By embracing this approach, this brand embarked on a journey of discovery. Through a series of focus groups and in-depth interviews, they uncovered a goldmine of insights. They learned what their target audience was looking for.

Armed with these insights after market analysis, the brand revamped its strategy. They highlighted stories of sustainability, engaged with their community on a deeper level, and repositioned their brand to align with the values and aspirations of their customers. The result? A dramatic uplift in customer engagement, loyalty, and, most importantly, sales.

As we see, QMR isn’t just about gathering data; it's about understanding the heartbeat of the market. It opens a window into the minds of your customers, revealing not just what they do, but why they do it. It's about capturing the emotions, experiences, and essence that drive consumer behavior. Businesses can take help of QMR methodologies like Focus Groups Discussions, in-depth interviews, etc., during various phases such as adcept testing, A/B testing, product launch, new feature implementation, pilot testing new initiatives, market entry etc.

The area of qualitative research is expanding at speed. In fact, it grew nearly 50% faster than the rest of the research industry between 2019-2021. The global qualitative market research market is expected to reach USD 15.64 billion in 2028, growing at a CAGR of 2.9%. India's market research industry is experiencing rapid growth, projected to reach USD 3.4 billion in 2024.

Why Focusing on Qualitative Research is Important?

Incorporating qualitative market research into business strategies ensures that decisions are not just data-driven but are also deeply informed by the human context and complexities that drive customer behavior. This holistic approach can significantly enhance a business's ability to innovate, compete, and connect with its customers on a deeper level.

● Deepens Customer Understanding: QMR goes beyond mere numbers to explore the 'why' and 'how' behind customer decisions. By conducting in-depth interviews and focus groups, businesses can explore the motivations, attitudes, and behaviors of their customers, & get a deeper understanding.

● Improves Product Development: By capturing detailed feedback and experiences, businesses can tailor their products or services to better meet customer needs and preferences, leading to more successful product launches and updates. 

● Enhances Customer Journey & Experience: As per reports, QR can increase customer loyalty by up to 200%. Insights from research can help businesses identify gaps in the customer journey and opportunities to enhance the overall customer experience, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty.

● Better Marketing Strategies: Understanding the nuances of customer language and sentiment can help businesses craft more effective marketing messages and campaigns that resonate with their target audience.

● Facilitates Innovation & Decision Making: Through exploratory research methods like ethnographic studies, businesses can uncover emerging trends and unmet needs, sparking innovation and keeping the company at the forefront of the market. The rich, detailed insights gained from this research can support more informed and strategic business decisions, reducing risks associated with new initiatives.

● Builds Brand Connection & Empathy: By understanding and addressing the deeper emotional and psychological needs of customers, businesses can build stronger, more meaningful connections with their audience.

● Enhances Competitive Advantage: Businesses that effectively leverage qualitative insights can differentiate themselves in the market, offering products, services, and experiences that better align with customer desires.

Types of Qualitative Market Research

QMR encompasses various methodologies, each with its unique process and potential insights. Below are the top 4 types of the same most prevalent with the businesses:

Focus Groups:

Involving a small group of participants, focus groups are moderated discussions that leverage group dynamics to uncover insights about perceptions, ideas, and attitudes toward a product, service, or concept. This approach to QMR helps brands leverage group dynamics to elicit a broad range of views and ideas, making them invaluable for generating rich discussions on products, services, or advertising campaigns. A report by the Market Research Society found that focus groups remain a popular method, with many researchers valuing the depth and breadth of insights generated through group interaction.

It is particularly favored for their ability to quickly gather diverse opinions and for the depth of insight that can be achieved through group interaction.


This method involves observing and interacting with participants in their natural environment to understand their cultures, behaviors, and routines. It's particularly useful for gaining a holistic view of the user experience. Ethnographic research provides a comprehensive view of the customer experience in their natural environment, offering unparalleled insights into consumer behaviors, lifestyles, and product usage contexts.

It is being increasingly employed by businesses looking to design user-centric products and services or to understand the cultural and social factors influencing consumer decisions.

Observational Research:

Researchers observe behaviors and interactions in a natural or controlled setting without direct interaction with the participants. This method is useful for gathering unbiased data on actual behaviors. This method allows businesses to gather unbiased data on actual consumer behaviors without the influence of a research setting, which is crucial for understanding real-world customer interactions with products and services.

Observational Research is often used in retail to optimize store layouts, product placement, and shopping experiences, as well as in product design and usability testing to observe how users interact with products.

In-depth Interviews:

Conducted one-on-one, these interviews allow researchers to dive deep into individual perspectives, motivations, and experiences. The semi-structured format provides flexibility to explore topics as they arise.
They offer detailed insights into individual customer perspectives, motivations, and experiences. The flexibility of in-depth interviews allows researchers to explore complex topics deeply and adaptively. According to a 2021 study, in-depth interviews are among the most common market research solutions, used extensively across various fields to gather rich, detailed insights.
Additionally, they are widely used across industries for their versatility in exploring new markets, testing product concepts, and understanding customer satisfaction drivers.

Benefits of QMR: Some Successful Case Studies

1. One of India's leading Payment Interfaces: 

It wanted to understand the responses & get feedback from the customers to improve the product. We conducted a series of focus group discussions across various demographics to understand consumer preferences regarding the same, including their thoughts on usage, UI, service relevancy & convenience.

Leveraging the insights from this research, this brand was able to further enhance functionalities, leading to a positive reception from the target market and an increase in market share.

2. Another Emerging Home Building Solutions Provider:

Aimed to improve its service quality and client satisfaction in the face of growing competition. We went ahead and conducted in-depth interviews of their business partners (vendors) to gather nuanced insights into their experience and operational challenges.

The research highlighted areas for improvement, such as the need for functional UX on the app. The brand further acted on these insights by upgrading its app with better navigation tools and introducing additional safety features, significantly improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

As the demand for deeper market understanding grows, Qualitative Market Research (QMR) has proven to be a game-changer for Indian businesses seeking a deeper connection with their customers. Efficiently done QMR offers an unparalleled view of the customer journey, highlighting not just the destinations but the experiences along the way. This insight is invaluable for businesses looking to refine their touchpoints and interactions to better meet customer expectations. It's clear that companies willing to listen and learn from their customers are the ones that stand out and succeed. 

Source: Forsta, The Business Research Company, ETBrand Equity