Why You Should Apply a Mixed Methodology Approach
So, you’ve decided to explore research options to better understand your audience? Awesome—you’re on the right track. Now the tricky part is knowing what type of research best fits your needs.
There are many research methods out there, and it can be overwhelming to identify just one to meet all your needs—this is why combining more than one research method may be the best solution.
What is Mixed Methods Research?
Mixed methods research is the use of both qualitative and quantitative research measures in conjunction to arrive at a research conclusion.
This technique allows you to draw on the strengths of each method to provide more versatile insights. Trying to nail down a customer persona or measure brand awareness? Wish to better understand customer sentiment or pricing needs? With a mixed methods research approach, you can expand and strengthen your research results for a more well-rounded outcome.
The truth is, many research questions cannot be answered with just one research method. You have to attack your research questions from multiple angles to guarantee full spectrum results. Knowing when to use each type of research may unlock a more useful, actionable application of data.
Imagine you are launching a new product. You've run a few interviews with current customers, and they all say that the product is an excellent addition to your brand. But, when it comes to launching in a new market, you’re running blind.
You need to gather information about potential markets but don’t know where to start. You are working against a fast moving product timeline and the product team needs answers quickly. You decide you can get what you need through surveying people in potential markets.
The problem you are likely to encounter using only one method is operating under a siloed perspective—not gathering enough diversified information on potential markets to know if you are entering the “right” market for your product or if the product is solving the right problem or has the right feature sets from the start. This can be dangerous and costly to remedy. Fixing an issue after a product has been released can cost up to 100 times more than the time spent on addressing it earlier in the process. Meaning the cost to retrofit a product once it’s already in the market can be devastating—not to mention the time lost chasing the wrong audience.
There’s a way to prevent this silo from happening. By combining the market survey with market interviews, focus groups, or an ethnography, you can bring context back to the numbers you see in your survey. You are able to better understand the sentiment behind the decisions your audience is making. This approach is especially helpful when you’re looking to identify new potential markets for continued growth.
Using both a quantitative and qualitative approach in tandem improves comprehension of the root issue and produces more thorough evidence. This strategy will provide you—the researcher—with a comprehensive overview of the current market to help uncover how your business can address the market’s needs successfully.
When reviewing your research options, you need to first identify a few key things about your research before being able to choose which methods are right for you.
Define your research question or objectives.
Before you even begin to determine which type of research best suits your needs, you first have to identify what the problem is. What do you want to learn from this research? What are some measurable ways you can answer the “how might we…” question? Solidifying your research objectives or overall research question will help direct your research and prevent scope creep.
Identify your target audience.
Once you have your research objectives outlined, the next step to any good research is understanding who your target audience is. A few questions that can help you identify your target audience are:
What is the average age of your current customers?
Does your current customer have children?
Where does your customer currently live?
What social media is your customer currently using?
What is the average household annual income of your customers?
What other brands do your customers use on a weekly basis?
Once you cover this step, then you are ready to dive into the different research options.
Select your methodology.
Between qualitative and quantitative research, there are many different options to choose from. It’s important to identify which type works for your audience, budget and/or time constraints, and your overall research needs.
Types of Quantitative Research
Attitude, Awareness, and Usage (AAU)
Campaign / Messaging ROI
Sentiment and Perception
Data Mining and Predictive Analytics
Types of Qualitative Research
Content / Historical
Build your research components.
Once you know which research methods will work for your needs, then the prep work begins. For your quantitative research, you may begin by writing survey questions. For your qualitative research, you may start writing a discussion guide or dive straight into gathered content, outlining what information topics are needed for exploration. For both methods, you will need to recruit interview or survey participants.
Recruit your participants.
There are many different ways to tackle participant recruitment. Think about your target audience and identify the type of sampling you would like to use. What is the best way to gather participants to meet your objectives? Consider offering an incentive for participating in your research. People are busy and typically uninterested without a direct advantage to them.
Depending on your needs, you may opt for one (or multiple) of the following recruitment methods.
Reach specific groups through online/social media communities.
Leverage your company’s network.
Look internally; recruit from within to hear directly from employees.
Gather current customers to hear about their candid experiences.
Hire a third-party recruitment team.
Use tools to assist in finding test participants.
Analyze your data and tell the story.
Your data collection is complete—now what’s next? Remember the business goal you started with and the reason you embarked on the research in the first place? It’s time to revisit that and use data to answer all those questions. The key to good analysis is to find overarching trends in the data that are actionable. Remember to stay organized and let the data do the talking. Mixed methodology research can be a researcher’s best friend when trying to expose concealed narratives—giving you a leg-up on the competition. Using insights found through both types of research grants you the ability to uncover areas of opportunity that others in the industry may miss.
By using a mixed methodology research approach, you are setting your research up for the best possible outcome—fully uncovering key points of friction that your consumer may encounter, giving you the opportunity to address necessary changes for growth. Without the use of multiple methods, you run the risk of not properly listening to your audience, and making costly moves that don’t actually solve the problem or only cater to a small subset of your audience.
As researchers, we know we aren’t trying to fit anyone or anything into any kind of preexisting construct; our job is to get a full view of our audience on their terms. We already know the importance of understanding our audience fully, but we don’t always see gaps in the research without this kind of investigation. Mixed methodology research allows you to look at a problem from all angles and potentially identify new opportunities we never realized existed.
Not sure which research methods are right for your needs? Check out our research methodology guide and starter template below.
Mixed Methods Research—Why It Works
A comprehensive guide to the research methods available and how to get started with a project plan.
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