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Quantitative and qualitative insights: better together

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Different testing methodologies deliver different insights—all with unique, individual value. To deliver elite customer experiences, it’s critical that organizations combine the right mix of these methodologies to uncover what users do, how they feel, and why.

For businesses to gain this holistic, 360-degree view of their customer experiences, connecting qualitative insights to quantitative data is key—empowering decision-makers to combine experience data with human insights facilitates customer-centric decisions every step of the way.

Qualitative vs. quantitative feedback: what's the difference?

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When it comes to understanding human behavior, you may find yourself wondering if your testing approach should be qualitative or quantitative. While there are major differences between qualitative and quantitative testing methods, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each. Because frequently, they complement each other and help highlight different perspectives (or a holistic view) of the same situation.

What is qualitative feedback?

Qualitative feedback relies on non-numerical data derived from observations and recordings that approximate and characterize phenomena. In other words, it’s concerned with understanding human behavior from the perspective of the subject.

To do this, qualitative testing acquires data by studying subjects in their natural environment—focusing on understanding the why and how of human behavior in the given situation. It’s especially effective in obtaining information about values, opinions, and behaviors during particular situations.

Qualitative testing methods

There are three common qualitative testing methods: 

  • Participant observation
  • In-depth interviews
  • Focus groups

Each method is unique and particularly suited for obtaining a specific type of data. 

Participant observation

Participant observation is best used for collecting data on naturally-occurring behaviors as they happen in their usual contexts.

In-depth interviews 

In-depth interviews are optimal for collecting data on individuals’ personal histories, perspectives, and experiences—particularly when sensitive topics are being explored or follow-up questions are likely necessary.

Focus groups 

Focus groups effectively gather information from multiple subjects at once and generate broad overviews of issues or concerns related to the demographics represented.

What is quantitative feedback?

Quantitative feedback collects and analyzes numerical data. It aims to find patterns and averages, make predictions, test causal relationships, and generalize results to broader populations through the representation of data expressed as numbers.

The thing to remember is that quantitative feedback is unlike qualitative feedback in one key aspect—it relies on numerical data.

When to use qualitative vs. quantitative feedback

Quantitative data helps you see the big picture—generally in the form of trends and patterns. On the other hand, qualitative data adds color and context, giving a  human perspective to the numbers.

  • Formulating hypotheses: Qualitative and quantitative feedback helps you gather detailed information on a topic. Commonly, quantitative data will surface trends that you can use as a springboard for qualitative testing.
  • Validating your hypotheses: Sometimes what you really need is objective information to confirm your hypothesis. Quantitative testing will get you the key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to prove whether or not your hypothesis was a hunch or a real thing.
  • Finding general answers: Quantitative testing usually has more participants than qualitative. And that’s because it’s much easier (and less expensive) to have someone fill out a survey than it is for them to participate in focus groups, for example. In this way, it can be useful for answering questions like: Were you satisfied with your experience? Or would you recommend us to a friend? On the other hand, qualitative testing helps you answer questions like: Why were you satisfied or unsatisfied with your experience? Or why or why not would you recommend us to a friend?
  •  Using emotion to validate decisions: Qualitative testing is especially good at uncovering the emotions behind data. This can be in the form of quotes or body language or facial expressions caught on video. It helps to hear and see your customers describe wants, needs, concerns, frustrations, etc. Qualitative data will get you that.

Why you need both qualitative and quantitative feedback

The two types of feedback don’t conflict with each other. They actually work much better together. In a world where data is collected everywhere and with almost everything, there’s a wealth of cold hard numbers that can form the strong foundation from which you can base decisions. However, that foundation is incomplete without human insight collected from real people to give those numbers meaning.

So how do you put these two forms of feedback together?

Quantitative data is the 'what' and qualitative data is the 'why'

Often we spot trends in data. We see what people are doing, but it’s tough to understand why. The numbers are trying to tell us something about trends in behavior, but numbers can’t give you the full story. 

When you pair qualitative insights with quantitative data, however, they can tell a richer story. 

Let’s say you’re a marketer, and you notice that people are finding one of your landing pages, but they’re not converting. Or you’re a product manager who notices that people aren’t using an entire element of your product that you just launched. Whichever the case, you likely came to these realizations by analyzing your quantitative data. It told you what was happening but not why. This is when you should turn to qualitative testing methods to see and hear—from real people—exactly what the issue might be. 

Both methods can be helpful on their own, but together, qualitative and quantitative testing methods give you an intimate understanding of your customers’ needs, expectations, and pain points.

Marrying the narrative with the numbers

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Consumers spend their lives interacting with businesses. Whether digitally or in-store, businesses have a responsibility to provide customer-centric experiences that invite consumers to fall in love with their brand. However, 75% of organizations believe they deliver on these customer-centric experiences for their customers, but only 30% of their customers agree—we call this the empathy gap.

Clearly, there’s a massive disconnect between the experience companies believe they’re providing and the experience customers believe they’re receiving. In order to close this gap, businesses need to marry the narrative with the numbers, or in other words, effectively couple qualitative data with quantitative data.

Traditionally, businesses have depended on quantitative data—hard numbers and figures that can be collected through analytical tools. And while this data is irresistible to businesses, it really only explains what has happened during an experience, not the why. In order to understand why things happen, businesses need to understand the emotion behind the data through qualitative customer feedback.

How UserTesting can help you conduct qualitative testing

Forward thinking

Access deeper insights

Understand the 'what' with survey results, and dig deeper into the 'why' with qualitative insights to better understand your customers.

Community focused

Scale CX across your organization

Extend testing activities to more users and teams with pre-written test plans that require no expertise.

Employee driven

Streamline feedback collection

Simplify workflows by simultaneously launching qualitative tests to survey respondents.

At UserTesting, we’re able to conduct qualitative testing with our platform by collecting data and human insights that reveal people’s behaviors, needs, and opinions. Like the ones we just explained—common qualitative feedback can all be acquired through moderated or unmoderated testing.

Start connecting UserTesting tests to your surveys to combine the best-in-class human insight solution with your quantitative insights and start making more customer-centric decisions today.

We're constantly doing a qual-quant mix of testing with UserTesting and Qualtrics. The two things working together provide an additional layer of confidence for the entire team.

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Tammy Snow

Former Senior Director, User Research, Expedia Group