Qualitative Research Needed to Understand Social Buying

Several interesting articles recently have focused on social media effects on purchasing. It’s an ongoing discussion among marketers, and qualitative research is a critical part of the discussion.

A recent post by Tony Zambito at his blog, Buyer Persona Insights, The Research Methods of Social Buyerology notes that understanding buyers who use social media requires “multiple qualitative approaches,” including field buyer research, ethnographic immersion, contextual buyer interviews and grounded theory interviews.

“What we do know today is that traditional methods of structured customer, buyer, and market research that are quantitative based cannot address the social and cultural changes taking place in our business society. This includes the severely hindering structured methods typically associated with focus groups and surveys. It is not to say that quantitative structured approaches are worse but to say that qualitative approaches are specifically needed to understand behavioral and interaction changes in situational settings, says Zambito in another article at Business to Community on the same topic.

At 20/20, we concur. qualitative approaches to understanding buyers and purchasing are specifically needed in our social media era.  Kathy Doyle of Doyle Research Associates as been particularly vocal about the need for qualitative research techniques in evaluating social media.  Her presentation to at the QRCA Conference last year served as a wake-up call to the industry that qualitative should be the analysis of choice if users are to get the most out of social media.

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