How To Measure and Analyze Qualitative Data for Marketing?

by | Jun 5, 2024

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Measure and Analyze Qualitative Data for Marketing

According to a 2022 survey of 231 respondents, 95 percent of the global professionals surveyed said they regularly use online surveys, making them the most used qualitative market research methodology.

Meanwhile, dashboards and data visualization followed at 90 percent.

Other popular methods include:

  • Storytelling
  • Online focus groups with webcams
  • In-person focus groups
  • Mobile-first surveys
  • Online communities
  • Social media analytics

These research techniques focus on qualitative data for marketing. They involve in-depth analysis to gain insights, motivations, and reasoning.

However, qualitative data is often infinite. So, what are tactics to measure and analyze it?

Let’s first discuss what qualitative data for marketing is.

Understanding Qualitative Market Research

Qualitative data for marketing is gathered through qualitative market research.

Qualitative market research involves non-numerical data to determine the frequency of particular characteristics, such as interests, spending habits, and purchasing motivations.

This research method obtains insights from textual data by identifying its rich context and finding subtle patterns and themes (e.g., consumers’ emotions and perceptions of brands within your industry).

The sample size for qualitative market research is small but highly validated, typically comprising six to ten participants.

The small sample size can be more cost-effective than large-scale studies. At the same time, the intimate setting encourages more open and detailed discussions, allowing for in-depth analysis of the subject matter.

Types of Qualitative Market Data Collection

Qualitative data for marketing is based on “what” the participants think and feel about specific topics and “why” they think and feel that way. Here are the most common collection methods:


Observations, or “shop-along,” are a collection method where market researchers accompany participants as they browse stores.

This method observes participants’ interactions and reactions to everything they see in stores, such as packaging, prices, in-store displays, arrangements, products, and customer service.

However, observations don’t require physically accompanying participants. Instead, you can observe their behaviors on camera or from a distance to ensure honest feedback.

Such approaches also help prevent shoppers from forgetting the details of their shopping experience because data is captured in real time.

Focus groups

Focus groups are discussion groups with six to eight participants.

The participants are diverse but have a unifying characteristic based on your target market. They might all own the same product, use the same service, or are familiar with your company.

In this collection method, market researchers facilitate in-person or online discussions.

Online focus groups are considered cost-efficient alternatives because they can be conducted through social media platforms or video meeting software.

In-depth interviews

In-depth interviews are one-on-one interviews conducted in person or remotely.

These discussions provide insights into an individual’s concerns, motivations, and needs without the influence of other participants.

For example, if you want to learn about the participants’ thoughts about your product, you’ll ask about the factors that shaped their decision to buy or not. You could also ask about the qualities they like or dislike.

Throughout the conversations, you can ask open-ended follow-up questions based on the responses to produce a comprehensive customer profile.

Online forums

Online forums are digital spaces where people discuss various topics. Unlike social media channels, they’re organized into categories where members create discussions or post questions.

Many forums let members share multimedia content with text. These posts are typically longer than those on social media platforms.

Online forums facilitate in-depth discussions that provide detailed qualitative data for marketing.

Because members participate in extended conversations and share comprehensive responses, you can capture consumer behavior and sentiment nuances. The organized structure of online forums is also ideal for exploring open-ended and thematic topics.


Ethnographic market research observes participants, in person or remotely, as they use a product in their environment.

This methodology can provide more accurate insights into how consumers use a product and how it satisfies their needs.

For instance, if you’re a kitchen appliance company, you’ll examine how home cooks use your products and identify difficulties during usage.

The data you’ll gather from this research could help produce kitchen appliances that meet the average user’s cooking needs and preferences.

In-home use

The in-home use method is a product testing strategy.

You’ll send the product to the participants, and they’ll use it in their home environments within a specified period.

The participants will use the product normally. When the usage period ends, you’ll complete the study with a follow-up, such as a survey.

Alternatively, you can ask the participants to record their real-time daily use and opinions in a journal.

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Image by Freepik on Freepik

Analysis Methods of Qualitative Market Research

Here are the approaches to measuring and analyzing qualitative data for marketing:

Content analysis

Content analysis examines and quantifies the presence of specific subjects, words, and concepts in audio and video content. This method converts qualitative data into quantitative input to uncover patterns and differences in customer experiences.

Content analysis is typically used to measure brand reputation and understand consumer behavior.

For example, you can run a survey with open-ended questions to discover customers’ concerns and experiences with your product. Then, you’ll quantify the data to categorize the responses and determine the results based on the emotional context of the texts.

Examples of content analysis for qualitative marketing data based on approach include:

Conceptual (non-interpretational and surface-level focused):

  • Identify the number of occurrences of specific words in customer feedback to measure the prevalence of certain topics
  • Monitor how frequently your products are mentioned on social media content

Relational (implicit, interpretational, and meaning-focused):

  • Determine relationships between concepts in customer reviews, such as linking service satisfaction to repeat business
  • Study the correlation between the tone of marketing campaigns (positive, negative, or neutral) and engagement metrics like likes, shares, and comments to understand how language influences consumer interactions

Narrative analysis

Narrative analysis interprets participants’ stories, including case studies, testimonials, interviews, focus groups, and other textual data.

In marketing research, narrative analysis captures and reviews customer stories—on social media, for example—to obtain in-depth insights into their lives, challenges, and priorities.

Let’s say you’re a travel company. You’ll use narrative analysis to examine reviews or testimonials about customers’ travel experiences of trips organized by your agency.

The insights will help you uncover the most memorable and valuable aspects of their travel experiences. They could include the quality of accommodations, the effectiveness of the itinerary, or the level of customer service received.

You can analyze the narratives using two methods: inductive and deductive.

  • Inductive: You might notice repeated patterns of itinerary improvement suggestions. Then, you’ll interpret them and draw conclusions based on your marketing research aim.
  • Deductive: You’ll start with a hypothesis, such as “high-quality accommodations are crucial in customer satisfaction.” Afterward, you’ll collect reviews or testimonials related to accommodations to confirm or refute the assumption.

Thematic analysis

Thematic analysis analyzes qualitative data by identifying themes to determine patterns.

This method is often used to categorize a group of texts from interviews or a set of transcripts. Then, you’ll review the data to identify common themes, such as repeated ideas and topics.

For instance, you’ll use thematic analysis to analyze online forum discussions about your products or company.

You’ll identify recurring themes from the response threads, such as preferences for eco-friendly products or negative customer service perceptions. This process enables you to obtain actionable insights into consumer preferences and their expectations of your brand.

Discourse analysis

Discourse analysis focuses on the subjective meaning of language in written or spoken communication within the context in which it takes place.

This method has two approaches: language-in-use and socio-political, aka critical discourse analysis (CDA).

Language-in-use focuses on the technicalities of language, while the socio-political approach in CDA focuses on the use and dynamics of power and power relations.

In marketing research, you can use these approaches in the following ways:


  • Analyze superlative or modal language that signifies satisfaction or dissatisfaction, e.g., best and worst (superlative); could and should (modal)
  • Examine the language structures of successful marketing campaigns


  • Examine how advertisements and promotional materials might perpetuate ideologies and influence consumer behavior
  • Investigate discourses around brand controversies to understand how power dynamics between companies and consumers are negotiated through public communication

Data visualization

Data visualization graphically presents data and information. It involves visual elements like charts, maps, and graphs to make complex textual data more understandable.

Examples of data visualization techniques for qualitative data include:

  • Pie Chart: Proportion or part-to-whole comparisons, ideal for conceptual content analysis
  • Word Clouds: Emphasizes the frequency and importance of words based on size, ideal for conceptual content analysis, thematic analysis, and language-in-use discourse analysis
  • Heat Map: Showcases data differences through color variations, ideal for thematic analysis, socio-political discourse analysis, and narrative analysis
  • Scatter Plot: Displays relationships between two variables, ideal for relational content analysis

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Essential Qualitative Measurements for Marketing

Here are the essential qualitative measurements you must use for marketing:

Customer and lead perceptions

How customers and leads perceive the information you publish online helps determine the motivation for taking desired actions (e.g., liking, commenting, or sharing).

This measurement is essential because it will tell you whether your marketing campaigns will produce your desired outcomes, such as conversions.

Suppose you’re an electronics retailer collecting qualitative feedback about your smartphone ad campaigns. Based on this feedback, you can obtain information about how the campaigns influenced people’s interest in your product, helping you understand the effectiveness of your messaging.

Influence and thought leadership

Influence and thought leadership help boost brand awareness.

One sign that your influence and thought leadership are working is when like-minded influencers inquire about potential partnerships. These inquiries include content pitches or requests to feature your products in influencer posts.

Influence and thought leadership also extend beyond the web.

You might receive requests to speak at industry conferences or invitations to joint press releases. This uptick in partnership inquiries and professional invites shows your brand’s authority is increasing.

However, measuring influence and thought leadership can be complex. This is how qualitative market research helps you understand this measurement’s nuances.

Conversion drivers for different segments

Each consumer segment has a primary conversion driver, which varies at different sales funnel stages (awareness, interest, desire, action, loyalty).

For instance, one consumer segment may consist of price-sensitive consumers, while another could be leads motivated by status symbols.

Thus, you must identify and deploy such conversion drivers at the correct stages. Then, you must determine what actions you want your target audience to take at those stages.

Let’s say you’re a luxury car brand. Your customers are motivated by status and exclusivity at the “desire” stage.

To capitalize on this motivation, you could introduce limited-edition car models or exclusive membership perks in your marketing campaigns. This approach can enhance your products’ perceived value, encouraging leads to advance to the “action” stage to purchase.

Consumer knowledge

Marketing campaigns that perform well minimize the need to second-guess your brand image. Prospects and existing customers must understand your products and business identity.

The example below emphasizes why this measurement is essential in qualitative market research:

Suppose you’re an internet service provider. Upon studying consumer knowledge about your products, you found a gap because consumers don’t know you operate fiber networks.

At the same time, consumers don’t understand how you can address their needs better than competitors.

With these qualitative market research insights, you can develop targeted educational campaigns that address the knowledge gaps. This way, you can effectively communicate your product’s edge against competitors.

How To Design a Qualitative Marketing Research

Now that you understand qualitative market research, its collection methods, analysis techniques, and essential measurements, here are the steps for designing your research:

Outline your research objectives

Outlining your objectives is the first step to designing qualitative market research. These goals must be specific and relevant to your growth marketing targets.

Let’s say you’re a webinar service provider. Your goal is to understand the webinar landscape to increase the marketability of your services.

With these objectives, you may interview industry experts or facilitate focus groups with corporate clients to obtain insights into what they consider fair pricing, expected features at different price points, and how the prices compare against competitors’ offers.

This understanding lets you strategically refine your pricing models to meet client expectations.

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Image by Racool Studio on Freepik

Choose the appropriate methodology

Once you have your objectives, choose the proper research methods.

You must choose an approach that aligns with your research question and lets you collect rich and detailed data.

For example, opt for interviews or focus groups to explore motivations. If you want to observe consumer behavior and preferences, choose observations or ethnographic market research.

It’s also imperative to choose an appropriate analysis technique.

For example:

  • Use thematic analysis to identify recurring themes in the discussions or observations.
  • Use relational content analysis to analyze the relationship between campaign messaging and actions.

Pick an audience segment for your participants

Afterward, you must select your sample based on your objectives and methods.

For instance, you may select customers who have recently bought or used your products. You could also pick leads who are interested in your offers.

Once your sample is finalized, you can start collecting and analyzing the data.


Qualitative market research involves an in-depth analysis of marketing nuances numerical data cannot expound. By leveraging its methods, you can better understand your target market’s behaviors, motivations, and preferences. You can also further optimize your strategies based on the evolving industry trends.

Balancing this approach with quantitative research can help you craft more targeted marketing efforts that resonate with prospects and existing customers. As a result, you can launch successful marketing campaigns that meet consumer needs, ultimately contributing to significant returns on investment.

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