How to use qualitative and quantitative research in new product development

I recently came across the new Domino’s Pizza ad where they show a clip of focus groups they conducted with consumers about their products. Love it! The message was clear: they listened to their customers. Their product and management teams were brave enough to pay attention to what customers think. I will be forever grateful to Domino’s pizza for the message sent on the value of market research.

This may not sound like a novel idea, but many, many companies go about their business thinking that they do not need to conduct market research to improve their products and grow. They think they know enough about their industry and product category that there is nothing new to learn. Then there are companies that are barely aware of the importance of research, but see it as an expense rather than an investment. They prefer to throw spaghetti on the walls and see what sticks.

I don’t know how many focus groups Domino’s did or if they also used other research methods to test their improved pizzas, but the point here is that they were willing to listen to their customers.

Now regarding the methodology for new product development, I always advise clients to combine qualitative (eg focus groups) and quantitative (eg surveys) research methods.

Qualitative research is by definition exploratory and is used, when we do not know what to expect, to define the problem or develop an approach to the problem. It is also used to delve into topics of interest and explore nuances related to the problem at hand.

Quantitative research is conclusive in its purpose, as it tries to quantify the problem and understand how prevalent it is by seeking projectable results for a larger population.

Here are some guidelines for using both types of research in new product development.

Use qualitative research to:

  • Develop an initial understanding of how customers perceive the product category.
  • Look for a variety of ideas and feelings about your products
  • Understand the different perceptions of your products between groups and categories of people.
  • Discover the motivations and underlying factors that influence the decision to buy your products and those of the competition
  • Provide the information necessary to design a quantitative product test.
  • Explain the findings of a quantitative product test.
  • Explore different creative solutions to position and advertise the product

Use quantitative research to:

  • Recommend a final course of action on which version of the product should be released
  • Find out if there is consensus on the attractiveness of the product, the benefits and the purchase intention of current or potential customers.
  • Project results to a broader population of targeted customers
  • Identify evidence regarding cause and effect relationships between different factors relevant to product and purchasing behavior.
  • Test specific hypotheses about your products
  • Identify and size market segments
  • Describe the characteristics of the relevant customer segments.

Combining both approaches when developing new products will give you a solid foundation to make the right decisions for your business based on consumer insights.

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