Best Practices for Conducting Qualitative Interviews for Market Research

Best Practices for Conducting Qualitative Interviews for Market Research

Definitive data is an important aspect of researching market demand, customer attitudes and product usage, but data only tells part of the story. Qualitative Market Research can yield deeper insights.

Definitive data is an important aspect of researching market demand, customer attitudes and product usage, but data only tells part of the story. Behind those numbers lurk motivations, personal opinions and behaviors that also must be analyzed.

Qualitative market research can yield deeper insights, giving you the ability to assess a customer’s thought process throughout their purchase process or product usage, allowing you deeper insights as to why customers behave in certain ways. Qualitative research often provides researchers with new questions to ask, new ideas, or information that allows companies to question previously held assumptions.

What is Qualitative Market Research?

While quantitative research deals with facts and figures—or essentially quantifying hard data—qualitative research seeks to understand the “why” and “how.” It is more subjective, but it fills in the hard lines to give you additional insights and information on customer usage and attitude.

The most popular forms of market research are focus groups and one-on-one interviews with your key customers at various stages in the channel distribution model, whether that be contractors and developers, the sales reps for local showrooms and big box stores, or the end consumer. In each scenario, you present participants with open-ended questions in a conversational manner. You record the answers and compile them from various sources.

You can use qualitative research for product development and to better understand customer usage and attitudes (U&A). Understanding why customers do what they do when making purchase decisions is at the heart of conducting qualitative research. 

The whole idea is to delve deeper into “what” your customers think and feel about a certain product or topic and “why.” These opinions can then be factored into your company’s decision-making process to ensure you’re tailoring your home improvement products, your go to market strategies and your partner enablement budgets according to your particular audience and their preferences.

This qualitative interview guide will give an overview of best practices and sample questions to help you develop your research strategy.

How to Conduct a Qualitative Research Interview

Individual interviews can be conducted in various formats: in-person, online or over the phone. You should approach each interview as a conversation, filled with direct yet open-ended questions that give your interviewee space to speak freely. Here are a few tips for conducting qualitative research interviews:

1. Get the Right Sample Size

Unlike quantitative research, you need only a small group per segment to provide you the directional results that qualitative should deliver.. In general, a group of 5-10 participants per segment is the minimum sample size necessary to reach saturation and get enough data from in-depth interviews to provide conclusions. Your total sample size will depend on a number of factors, including your research objective, the variety of segments you want represented, your market and your budget. 

2. Go into Your Study with a Specific Goal

Because of the nature of open-ended, in-depth interviews with individuals, you’re going to gather a lot of information from each person. Some of it will be relevant, some of it will not. You can help by going into the research with a defined objective or desired outcome that isn’t too broad or vague. This enables you to focus your time and energy in a specific direction for your study. What is a key question you need answered, and how can your qualitative research interview questions align or support the main topic? 

3. Prepare a Few Standard Questions

The goal behind your interview questions is to probe deeper into the deciding factors that influence your customers’ behaviors and opinions. Preparing a set of questions before the interview allows you to keep it on track and ensure you’re getting the same general data from each participant. This is a discussion guide.  Some examples of questions to ask during a qualitative research interview include:

  • How familiar are you with, or what comes to mind when you think of, [YOUR BRAND]?
  • Why have you bought [YOUR PRODUCT/COMPETITOR PRODUCT] before?
  • If so, what motivated your purchase?
  • If not, why did you purchase a similar product from a different brand?
  • What appealed to you about the other product?
  • Why did you shop at that store?
  • Why would you shop somewhere else?
  • What information do you seek about home improvement products?
  • Where do you get your information and why those sources?

While you should tailor these pre-set questions to your research objective, make sure they are open-ended and don’t compel a particular answer. Avoid asking leading questions that would make your research findings inaccurate. You want to find out how your customers think and feel, and there is no right or wrong answer.

4. Don’t Lead with Your Questions

A good strategy when conducting one-on-one interviews is to allow a couple of minutes upfront to make small-talk with your interviewee and let them get comfortable. Many of your interviewees may be unaccustomed to being in this position, or they may feel like they’re being put on the spot. If you jump in with your questioning, it can make matters worse or cause them to clam up. Instead, ask your customer about their life, their work, their hobbies, and build a rapport. This will help them be more forthcoming and open later in the interview, when the depth of their answers are of utmost importance.

5. Ask Follow-up Questions and Be Flexible

Having pre-set questions will help ensure consistency among your data and keep your interview on track. However, it’s also important to be flexible and prepared to ask follow-up questions for clarification or explanation. Different interviewees will have different communication styles. Some might be comfortable speaking abundantly on a topic. Others might need a little encouragement or prodding. You will get the best data by going into each interview expecting it to be as unique as the individual with whom you’re conversing.

Gathering Qualitative Market Research for Your Company

For most types of market research, you’ll want a balance of both qualitative and quantitative data to get a holistic view of the topic at hand. The Farnsworth Group can provide you with expertise and research solutions that are designed with the lawn & ranch and home improvement industries in mind. You’ll collect valuable insights that go beyond simple facts and figures to guide key decision-making for your company.