Qualitative and Quantitative Data: What’s The Difference

May 26, 2021

When building a business, organizations collect massive amounts of data. From user behavior to pages visited. From time spent on an app to the number of downloads in a particular location. Data has become the most valuable commodity in the digital era. Collecting and understanding such data can give businesses invaluable information about their products or services, and what they can do to improve them. However, before business owners & managers can make critical observations, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two significant types of information— qualitative and quantitative data.

As social and emotional animals, human’s purchasing and buying decisions are made based on feelings more than anything else

What Is Qualitative Data?

Qualitative data refers to data collected that cannot be easily measured by numerical means. An example of this is a user’s feelings or opinions about a particular product or service.

While qualitative data can be more challenging to interpret and apply since user’s opinions may differ due to many different external and internal variables, having a peek inside the mind of a user can help you prove your hypotheses.

As social and emotional animals, human’s purchasing and buying decisions are made based on feelings more than anything else.

If you can tap into someone’s fear of missing out or educate them on how they expect to feel after purchasing your product or service, you’re more likely to convert a lead into a customer.

Gathering qualitative data can help your business answer critical questions on user’s feelings and emotions towards particular products or services.

Let’s say you developed a fitness app.

You’ve built the MVP and continued to test it. However, you’re unsure about the design of the app’s cover, the pictures you should use on its store profile or the color scheme in general. Qualitative data can help you make these decisions.

Asking questions of your users such as “Why did you choose to download this app, rather than one of our competitors?” or “What made our app stand out for you on the app store?” could allow your business to collect insights that otherwise would have been unavailable.

Qualitative Data Collection Methods

The best way to collect information about users’ feelings towards your product or service is to develop research questions and ask them in the form of interviews or surveys.

Such surveys can be done online or in person. Focus groups also provide respondents with several different types of questions, including descriptive and closed-ended.

The point here is to allow users to express their opinion about a product rather than give them a multiple-choice questionnaire, limiting what they can say and turns your qualitative data into numerical data.

What Is Quantitative Data?

If qualitative data is data that cannot be easily measured by numerical means, then quantitative data is the polar opposite.

Collecting quantitative data gives your organization the ability to do statistical analysis and collect numerical data points about your business and user’s behavior.

This type of data allows user’s behavior to be easily measured and quantified.

Gathering this type of data allows your business to develop deep understandings of users’ behaviors and the success of certain features of your app, website, or business.

For example, quantitative data could include the number of app downloads, landing page bounce rates, conversion rates, understanding the response from different customer demographics, and return on ad spend (ROAS).

Going back to our fitness app example.

Using analytical tools, we can see, in real-time, quantitative data being collected on our dashboards, which can assist in making app developments in the future.

  • 80% of users are focusing their time on the nutrition part of the app.
  • 20% of users are doing leg workouts while 50% are doing total body.
  • Most downloads are coming from the West Coast at 6 pm on Sunday afternoons
  • uUsers spend an average time of 23 minutes on the app.

All of this quantitative data provides essential information that your business can use to pivot, iterate and/or strengthen the product or service.

The value of data cannot be understated.

Quantitative Data Collection Methods

While we’ve already spoken about collecting quantitative data through business analytics, you can also collect quantitative data through surveys, interviews, and focus groups, just like qualitative.

Killing two birds with one stone.

While qualitative data questions tend to be more descriptive and open-ended, quantitative is more closed-ended.

Research questions for collecting quantitative data could include multiple-choice and linear scales, anything that allows your organization to collect and collate statistics.

qualitative and quantitative research

How You Can Use Quantitative and Qualitative Data 

While understanding the two different data types is excellent, we need to recognize how we can collect such different kinds of insights and apply them to our business.

The value of data cannot be understated.

By employing effective data collection practices and data analyzers, businesses can take advantage of user data in ways that their competitors can’t.

One of the biggest misconceptions in business is when entrepreneurs and startup founders create a business on a particular concept/vision and stick to it no matter what.

The only opinion who’s matters is your customers.

So if you’re not collecting both quantitative and qualitative data, analyzing and making business decisions based on the results, then you could end up building a product or service that no one wants.

3 Ways In Which Quantitative and Qualitative Data Can Benefit Your Business

Provide Focus For Your Business or Research

A business without focus is a business operating in the dark. They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee; this may be harsh on the camel; however, it provides an interesting analogy for when too many people get involved without looking at physical data. Data and information can provide your business with a laser-like focus on what to work on.

Helps You To Scale

Both quantitative and qualitative data can assist your business in deciding how to scale. Quantitative data could show where you need to add more investment. Is a particular feature gaining so much traffic that it’s worth putting all your effort into scale, or even branching it off as a second product? Qualitative data, on the other hand, could help your business get more customer referrals.

Validating Your Hypotheses

Qualitative methods will provide you information that you can apply analysis to, to validate your hypotheses. Quantitative data, on the other hand, can lead to statistical analysis that allows teams to form observations about user behavior.

Was that issue real or just a team member’s perception? The hard facts gleaned from quantitative and qualitative data will enable you to make critical business decisions based on observations.

What Is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research refers to collecting quantitative data. As discussed above, this is predominately done in surveys, focus groups, and analytical software. It can assist business owners in concluding research to predict future outcomes.

As a cost-effect tool for quantitative research, surveys again provide one of the best ways for companies to collect data from a large sample size.

They can be repeated and distributed for free with some online and cloud-based software providing striking dashboards that help present your data.

Quantitative Research Methods

Surveys

Surveys that focus on quantitative data are often comprised of predominately closed-ended questions.

Multiple choice questions where researchers can quickly gather results and information and present them in easy-to-read formats.

60% of respondents chose X, whereas 40% chose Y, for example.

Data collected in quantifiable methods are much easier to represent as well. A researcher can easily apply numbers and statistics into graphs and charts to provide more depth when presenting survey results.

Data Analysis

While this a lesser traditional form of quantitative research, it would be foolish not to consider it. With the introduction of tools such as Google Analytics and Kissmetrics, quantitative data has never been easier to collect.

Researching this way can require a bit more technical analysis. However, the outcome can be highly beneficial. Using data analysis to test hypotheses is the backbone of growth hacking and something that Eric Ries (Author of the Lean Startup) recommends extensively.

qualitative vs quantitative

What Is Qualitative Research?

In a similar vein to quantitative research, qualitative research methods focus on gathering, you guessed it, qualitative data. Such methods include:

Unstructured or Semi-Structured Questions

Unstructured and semi-structured interviews allow topics and questions to flow naturally, rather than only asking questions from a set question list in a specific order.

Open-ended Survey Questions

Open-ended survey questions allow respondents to elaborate on their answers more than simply answering yes or no. “What is your favorite feature of this app and why?”

Focus Groups

The focus group method can be a powerful tool for collecting data. Focus groups can happen in-person or online using a trained moderator who prompts people to answer your product or service questions. This structured session can provide great insights in real-time.

research quantitative

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

After learning about the difference between qualitative and quantitative data, the question now is, which one do you use for your business?

The answer…

Why not use both?

The question should not be quantitative vs. qualitative; the question should be how can your business use and take advantage of both at the same time?

As we’ve seen, both qualitative and quantitative have their differences. Still, each provides unique information and data necessary for understanding what customers think about your product, service, or industry.

Since qualitative and quantitative research methods are similar (save for using analytical tools to gather more quantitative information), as a business owner, it can be fairly easy to construct and conduct surveys to gather that all-important information that can make the difference during a competitive arms race.

qualitative & research quantitative data

About the author: Joe Silk -

Joseph is a Start-up Consultant, Copywriter & Business Owner with 9 years of PQE. He is extremely client-centric, able to work on a wide range of topics and deliver high-quality standards on projects of all sizes for clients all over the world. View on Linkedin

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