What is quantitative research?

As a business owner, have you ever wanted a broad snapshot of what your target market thinks and feels? That’s where quantitative market research comes in very handy.

Quantitative research methods range from structured surveys to customer questionnaires that produce cold hard facts and figures, giving you quick sample data to help you improve your products or services.

The idea of grabbing data from a large sample size is that it is thought to be representative of your overall target market. If you’re still looking for an efficient market research method, quantitative approaches tend to be easier to replicate and scale up than quantitative research due to their fixed response options and standardised structure.

For example, a coffee shop owner might ask a group of people “how often do you buy cups of coffee?” The respondents would potentially be given four or five possible answers to choose from, giving them very little to elaborate their answer.

It's a good way to compare and contrast the views of different customer types or personas. For instance, a coffee shop owner might wish to learn more about the behaviours of their four or five different customer groups – e.g. commuters, young mothers or senior citizens - and will design a questionnaire or survey around their unique habits.

What can you learn from quantitative business research?

Some of the most popular reasons quantitative business research is used by businesses include:

  • Researchers who want to measure consumer appetite for a potential product or service
  • Gain a better understanding of brand exposure and consumer awareness
  • Provide a reasonable approximation of the potential market size of a product or service
  • Determine an ideal target demographic
  • Understanding a typical consumer’s buying behaviour
  • Identify market trends and changing patterns

Which quantitative research methods are most popular?

Let’s take a look at six of the most frequently used quantitative research methods to help growing businesses achieve a broad sample of their target markets:

  • Opinion polls
    Designed to assess the opinions of your target market on a particular issue, opinion polls remain a popular form of quantitative survey to gauge consumer feeling on topics such as branding, product(s) and their own pressure points and demands.
  • Questionnaires
    By gathering heaps of data in one go, businesses make reasoned assumptions based on the questioning of a representative sample of people. Most questionnaires are closed response, giving respondents a set of available answers for each question. The really important thing for the validity of any market research questionnaire is to avoid bias. Questions must not be considered leading in any way, otherwise you’re simply wasting your time! There are some free online tools, such as SurveyMonkey, that you can use to generate your own questionnaire. 
  • Surveys and censuses
    A census is an enormous survey of an entire population and as a result it can be difficult and expensive to arrange – more commonplace for governments that depend on such vast data sets. Smaller sample surveys may be more realistic for start-up businesses, both in terms of time and cost.
  • Social attitude surveys
    Sometimes businesses really need to know their customers in order to cater for their beliefs and values. A social attitude survey can be really useful, giving you the opportunity to ask more general questions about their behaviours and gauge the common values they hold most important to them.
  • Cross-sectional studies
    A type of study which requires observation of one particular variable, collected from a representative sample of your target market, at one specific moment in time.
  • Longitudinal studies
    A longitudinal study works in the same way as a cross-sectional study, with the only difference being that the data is collected from a representative sample of your target market repeatedly over a period of time; as opposed to a single session.

There are many other quantitative research methods you could consider, but by all means use this list as a starting point if your business needs large-scale numerical data to decide how best to approach your target customers, giving your product(s) and service(s) the best platform to grow.

Are you currently exploring a business idea and want to know if there is a market for it? The Business & IP Centre can help. Sign up to our ‘Introduction to the Business & IP Centre workshop to learn more about how to use the Centre’s collection of business and intellectual property information sources to get your start-up business heading in the right direction.

See also

Plan to start your business

Plan to grow your business

Protecting your ideas