We’ve all heard the age-old saying that “opposites attract,” but what does that have to do with Qualitative Research and Big Data? As a professional qualitative researcher this means more to me than you might imagine. Not only do I understand and appreciate the unique relationship between big data and qualitative research, I also happen to be married to one of those “Big Data” guys. Ironic? I don’t think so. It turns out it’s a pretty perfect combination.
Not only do opposites attract, they complement one another. Just like a relationship, each person brings a different set of ideas and skills to the table that often complement what the other person may lack. The same concept applies to big data and qualitative research. Neither method is necessarily lacking on it’s own, but when used together they are able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together to create one clear, robust picture.
Today, companies like Best Buy choose to rely on both methods of research to gain a more informed, 360° vantage point of their consumer’s behavior. For example, if a company notices a spike or drop in one of its product lines, big data may be able to provide the numbers, but qualitative research can uniquely investigate the details and tell you “why.” If you don’t know the “why” behind your consumer’s choices, you have an unclear compass to help you navigate the future. Essentially qualitative research helps tell the rest of the story that big data can’t.
Have you ever heard the term “analysis paralysis”? When overwhelmed by mountains of data it can feel impossible to decide where to start or what to focus your attention on. This is where big data needs its better half, qualitative research. Qualitative researchers help you hone in on what’s important in your data, and prioritize what the data is telling you. Don’t become paralyzed by your data, instead make your data work for you by using qualitative research to bring it to life.
Just like all good relationships, “two heads are better than one.” It takes two unique perspectives to gain a greater understanding of a problem and all of its facets for a complete 360° vantage point. So rather than going it alone, let both methods do what they do best and reap the rewards of coming together to unveil key insights and distinct business action steps for a successful future.
~ Marilyn Weiss
President & Founding Partner