The characteristics of quantitative research contribute to methods that use statistics as the basis for making generalizations about something. These generalizations are constructed from data that is used to find patterns and averages and test causal relationships.
To assist in this process, key quantitative research characteristics include:
- The use of measurable variables.
- Standardized research instruments.
- Random sampling of participants.
- Data presentation in tables, graphs, or figures.
- The use of a repeatable method.
- The ability to predict outcomes and causal relationships.
- Close-ended questioning.
Each characteristic also discriminates quantitative research from qualitative research, which involves the collecting and analyzing of non-numerical data such as text, video, or audio.
With that said, let’s now take a look at each of the characteristics in more detail.
But let’s first look at the importance of quantitative research and when it does matter!
|Quantitative Research||Quantitative research is a systematic and structured approach to gathering and analyzing numerical data to answer research questions or test hypotheses. It is often used in empirical and scientific studies.|
|Data Collection Methods||Structured Surveys: Quantitative researchers often use surveys with closed-ended questions to collect data from a large sample of participants. Questionnaires and online forms are common tools.|
|Experiments: In experimental research, researchers manipulate variables to study cause-and-effect relationships. Data is collected through measurements and observations.|
|Observations: Researchers may use structured observations to gather data on behaviors or events, often using checklists or coding schemes.|
|Numerical Data||Quantitative research focuses on numerical data, such as counts, measures, and percentages. This data can be analyzed statistically to identify patterns, relationships, and trends.|
|Large Sample Size||Quantitative studies typically involve large sample sizes to ensure that findings are statistically significant and can be generalized to a larger population. Samples are often selected through random or systematic methods.|
|Statistical Analysis||Statistical analysis is a key characteristic of quantitative research. Researchers use statistical tests and software to analyze data and draw conclusions. Common statistical techniques include descriptive statistics and inferential statistics.|
|Objectivity and Reproducibility||Quantitative research aims for objectivity and reproducibility. The data collection process is often standardized to minimize bias, and results should be replicable by other researchers.|
|Generalization||One of the primary goals of quantitative research is to make generalizations from the sample to a larger population. Statistical techniques allow researchers to estimate population parameters based on sample data.|
|Hypothesis Testing||Quantitative researchers often formulate hypotheses and use statistical tests to test these hypotheses. The results help determine whether the data supports or rejects the proposed hypotheses.|
|Precision and Control||Quantitative research offers precision and control over variables. Researchers can carefully design studies to control for confounding variables and isolate the impact of specific factors.|
|Quantifiable Results||Quantitative research generates quantifiable results, such as means, medians, correlation coefficients, and p-values. These results provide clear and measurable insights into the research questions.|
|Conclusion||Quantitative research is a valuable method for testing hypotheses, identifying patterns, and making statistically supported generalizations. It is widely used in various fields, including psychology, sociology, economics, and the natural sciences.|
Importance of quantitative research
In the context of a business that wants to learn more about its market, customers, or competitors, quantitative research is a powerful tool that provides objective, data-based insights, trends, predictions, and patterns.
To clarify the importance of quantitative research as a method, we’ll discuss some of its key benefits to businesses below.
Before the proliferation of the internet, quantitative data collection was more cumbersome, less exhaustive, and normally occurred face to face.
Today, the ease with which companies can perform quantitative research is impressive – so much so that some would hesitate to even call it research.
Many businesses conduct questionnaires and surveys to have more control over how they test hypotheses, but any business with a Google Analytics account can passively collect data on key metrics such as bounce rate, discovery keywords, and value per visit.
The key thing to remember here is that there is little scope for uncertainty among the research data. Questionnaires ask closed-ended questions with no room for ambiguity and the validity of bounce rate data will never be up for debate.
Fundamentally speaking, quantitative research endeavors to establish the strength or significance of causal relationships.
There is an emphasis on objective measurement based on numerical, statistical, and mathematical data analysis or manipulation.
Quantitative research is also used to produce unbiased, logical, and statistical results that are representative of the population from which the sample is drawn.
In a marketer’s case, the population is usually the target audience of a product or service.
But in any case, organizations are dependent on quantitative data as it provides detailed, accurate, and relevant information on the problem at hand.
When it comes time to either prove or disprove the hypothesis, companies can either move forward with robust data or drop their current line of research and start afresh.
Versatility of quantitative statistical analysis
On the subject of proving a hypothesis are the statistical analyses a business must perform to arrive at the answer.
Fortunately, there are numerous techniques a company can employ depending on the context and the goals of the research.
Used to identify the value of attributes that influence purchase decisions, such as cost, benefits, or features.
Unsurprisingly, this analysis is used in product pricing, product launch, and market placement initiatives.
An analysis that determines the discrepancy that exists between the actual and desired performance of a product or service.
This is also known as “best-worst” scaling.
TURF, which stands for total unduplicated reach and frequency, is used to ascertain the particular combination of products and services that will yield the highest number of sales.
The use of measurable variables
During quantitative research, data gathering instruments measure various characteristics of a population.
These characteristics, which are called measurables in a study, may include age, economic status, or the number of dependents.
Standardized research instruments
Standardized and pre-tested data collection instruments include questionnaires, surveys, and polls. Alternatively, existing statistical data may be manipulated using computational techniques to yield new insights.
Standardization of research instruments ensures the data is accurate, valid, and reliable. Instruments should also be tested first to determine if study participant responses satisfy the intent of the research or its objectives.
Random sampling of participants
Random sampling should be used to gather data, a technique in which each sample has an equal probability of being chosen. Randomly chosen samples are unbiased and are important in making statistical inferences and conclusions.
Here are a few random sampling techniques.
True random sampling
Some consider true random sampling to be the gold standard when it comes to probabilistic studies. While it may not be useful in every situation or context, it is one of the most useful for enormous databases.
The method involves assigning numbers to a population of available study participants and then having a random number generator select them. This ensures that each individual in a study pool has an equal chance of being solicited for feedback.
Systematic sampling is similar to true random sampling but is more suited to smaller populations. In this technique, the sample is selected by randomly choosing a starting point in the population and then selecting every nth individual after that.
For example, if a researcher wanted to sample every twentieth person from a list of customers, they would randomly select one customer as the starting point and then sample every twentieth customer thereafter.
In cluster sampling, the population is divided into clusters or groups and a random sample of clusters is selected. After which, all members of the selected clusters are included in the sample.
If a HR team wanted to survey employees of a large organization, they might randomly select several departments as clusters, and then survey all the employees within those departments.
Cluster sampling can also be useful for businesses that have customers or products distributed over wide geographic areas.
To that end, cluster sampling is often used when the population is too large or too dispersed to sample individually. While it may be more efficient to sample clusters, the approach may be less precise if there is variability between them.
Data presentation in tables, graphs, and figures
The results of quantitative research can sometimes be difficult to decipher, particularly for those not involved in the research process.
Tables, graphs, and figures help synthesize the data in a way that is understandable for key stakeholders. They should demonstrate or define relationships, trends, or differences in the data presented.
Take McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), for example, the business and research arm of McKinsey & Company.
Established in 1990, MGI combines the disciplines of economics and management to examine the macroeconomic forces that influence business strategy and public policy.
Based on this analysis, MGI periodically releases reports covering more than 20 countries and 30 industries around six key themes: natural resources, labor markets, productivity and growth, the evolution of global financial markets, the economic impact of technology and innovation, and urbanization.
MGI’s mission is to “provide leaders in the commercial, public, and social sectors with the facts and insights on which to base management and policy decisions.” To carry out this mission, McKinsey’s data presentation is key.
In one article that argued against the deglobalization trend, McKinsey skilfully used graphs and bar charts to synthesize quantitative data related to the global flow of intangibles, services, and students.
The company also used an 80-cell matrix and color-coded scale to show the share of domestic consumption met by inflows for various geographic regions.
The use of a repeatable method
Quantitative research methods should be repeatable.
This means the method can be applied by other researchers in a different context to verify or confirm a particular outcome.
Replicable research outcomes afford researchers greater confidence in the results. Replicability also reduces the chances that the research will be influenced by selection biases and confounding variables.
The ability to predict outcomes and causal relationships
Data analysis can be used to create formulas that predict outcomes and investigate causal relationships.
As hinted at earlier, data are also used to make broad or general inferences about a large population.
Causal relationships, in particular, can be described by so-called “if-then” scenarios, which can be modeled using complex, computer-driven mathematical functions.
Lastly, quantitative research requires that the individuals running the study choose their questions wisely.
Since the study is based on quantitative data, it is imperative close-ended questions are asked.
These are questions that can only be answered by selecting from a limited number of options.
Questions may be dichotomous, with a simple “yes” or “no” or “true” or “false” answer.
However, many studies also incorporate multiple-choice questions based on a rating scale, Likert scale, checklist, or order ranking system.
Sample size is a critical consideration in quantitative research as it impacts the reliability of the results.
In business quantitative research, sample size refers to the number of participants or data points included in a study, and it is vital that the sample size is appropriate for the research questions being addressed.
A sample size that is too small can lead to unreliable conclusions since it will not accurately represent the study population.
Conversely, a sample size that is too large can lead to unnecessary expenses and time constraints.
In general, however, larger sample sizes tend to increase the precision and reliability of study conclusions.
This is because they reduce the impact of random variation and increase the power to detect statistically significant differences or relationships. However, larger sample sizes also require more resources and time to collect and analyze data.
As a consequence, it is important for businesses to select a sample size that balances factors such as the research question, population size, variability of the data, and statistical power.
Four real-world examples of quantitative research
Now that we’ve described some key quantitative research examples, let’s go ahead and look at some real-world examples.
1 – A Quantitative Study of the Impact of Social Media Reviews on Brand Perception
In 2015, Neha Joshi undertook quantitative research as part of her thesis at The City University of New York.
The thesis aimed to determine the impact of social media reviews on brand perception with a particular focus on YouTube and Yelp.
Joshi analyzed the impact of 942 separate YouTube smartphone reviews to develop a statistical model to predict audience response and engagement on any given video.
The wider implications of the study involved using customer reviews as a feedback mechanism to improve brand perception.
2 – A Quantitative Study of Teacher Perceptions of Professional Learning Communities’ Context, Process, and Content
Daniel R. Johnson from Seton Hall University in New Jersey, USA, analyzed the effectiveness of the teacher training model known as Professional Learning Communities (PLC).
Specifically, Johnson wanted to research the impact of the model as perceived by certified educators across three specific areas: content, process, and context.
There was a dire need for this research since there was little quantitative data on an approach that was becoming increasingly popular at the government, state, and district levels.
Data were collected using Standard Inventory Assessment (SAI) surveys which were online, anonymous, and incorporated a Likert scale response system.
3 – A Quantitative Study of Course Grades and Retention Comparing Online and Face-to-Face Classes
This research was performed by Vickie A. Kelly as part of her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at Baker University in Kansas, USA.
Kelly wanted to know whether distance education and Internet-driven instruction were as effective a learning tool when compared to traditional face-to-face instruction.
A total of 885 students were selected for the research sample to answer the following two questions:
- Is there a statistically significant difference between the grades of face-to-face students and the grades of online students?
- Is there a statistically significant difference between course content retention in face-to-face students and online students?
In both cases, there was no significant difference, which suggested that distance education as a learning tool was as effective as face-to-face education.
4 – A quantitative research of consumer’s attitude towards food products advertising
At the University of Bucharest, Romania, Mirela-Cristina Voicu wanted to research consumer attitudes toward traditional forms of advertising such as television, radio, and print.
She reasoned that consumer attitudes toward advertising impacted attitudes toward the product or brand itself, with a positive attitude potentially driving purchase intent.
To determine whether there was a link between these factors, 385 consumers in the Bucharest area were interviewed and asked to fill out a questionnaire.
Voicu ensured the sample was representative of the broader population in terms of two variables: age and gender.
The quantitative study results found that 70% of participants considered traditional forms of advertising to be saturated.
In other words, they did not have a positive attitude toward the advertised brand or product.
However, consumer attitudes toward food advertising were much more positive, with 61% of participants categorizing their attitudes as either favorable or very favorable in the questionnaire.
As the story goes, “data is the new oil,” yes, but what data?
Indeed, while quantitative research can be extremely powerful, it must be balanced with qualitative research.
Several qualitative methods might help enrich the quantitative data.
It’s critical to understand that quantitative data might be very effective in the short term.
Yet, it might not tell us anything in the long term.
For that, we need to use human judgment, intuition, and understanding of context.
In what we can label as second-order thinking.
Only by building qualitative understanding within quantitative methods combined with second-order effect thinking; can you leverage the best of the two worlds!
For instance, take the interesting case of how Amazon has integrated both quantitative and qualitative data into its business strategy.
This is part of Jeff Bezos’ “Day One” Mindset.
That enabled Amazon to understand when it makes sense to leverage quantitative vs. qualitative data.
As Jeff Bezos explained in 2006:
“Many of the important decisions we make at Amazon.com can be made with data. There is a right answer or a wrong answer, a better answer or a worse answer, and math tells us which is which. These are our favorite kinds of decisions.”
As our shareholders know, we have made a decision to continuously and significantly lower prices for customers year after year as our efficiency and scale make it possible.
Indeed, this was the core tenet of Amazon’s flywheel.
And Jeff Bezos also explained:
This is an example of a very important decision that cannot be made in a math-based way. In fact, when we lower prices, we go against the math that we can do, which always says that the smart move is to raise prices.
Indeed, as Jeff Bezos further explained:
We have significant data related to price elasticity. With fair accuracy, we can predict that a price reduction of a certain percentage will result in an increase in units sold of a certain percentage. With rare exceptions, the volume increase in the short term is never enough to pay for the price decrease.
In short, optimization tools leveraging quantitative analysis are quire effective in the short-term and relation to first-order effects activities.
However, in many cases, that doesn’t tell you anything when it comes to its second-order long-term consequences!
Jeff Bezos explained that extremely well:
However, our quantitative understanding of elasticity is short-term. We can estimate what a price reduction will do this week and this quarter. But we cannot numerically estimate the effect that consistently lowering prices will have on our business over five years or ten years or more.
And he introduced the difference between quantitative data vs. human judgment, which is a qualitative measure!
Our judgment is that relentlessly returning efficiency improvements and scale economies to customers in the form of lower prices creates a virtuous cycle that leads over the long term to a much larger dollar amount of free cash flow, and thereby to a much more valuable Amazon.com.
He highlighted how long-term, unpredictable and counterintuitive bets were the result of human judgement:
We’ve made similar judgments around Free Super Saver Shipping and Amazon Prime, both of which are expensive in the short term and—we believe—important and valuable in the long term.
Quantitative research examples
There is a lot of discussion around the ideal length of social media posts online, and much of it is anecdotal or pure conjecture at best.
In this example, the research involved tabulating and quantifying social media engagement as a factor of post length.
Posts encompassed a variety of social media updates, such as tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts, and headlines. The study determined:
- The optimal width of a paragraph (140 characters).
- The optimal length of a domain name (8 characters).
- The optimal length of a hashtag (6 characters).
- The optimal length of an email subject (28 to 39 characters), and
- The optimal duration of a podcast (22 minutes) and YouTube video (3 minutes).
Where SumAll sourced its quantitative data varied according to the type of social media post.
To determine the optimal width of a paragraph, the company referenced social media guru Derek Halpern who himself analyzed data from two separate academic studies.
To determine the optimal length of an email subject line, SumAll referenced a 2012 study by Mailer Mailer that analyzed 1.2 billion email messages to identify trends.
Tallwave is a customer experience design company that performs quantitative research for clients and identifies potential trends.
In the wake of COVID-19, the company wanted to know whether consumer trends the pandemic spurred would continue after restrictions were lifted.
These trends included buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS), and blended, cook-at-home restaurant meals.
Tallwave also wanted to learn more about consumer expectations around branded communication.
In a post-pandemic world, were health and safety precautions more important than the inconvenience they caused?
Would customers abandon digital experiences and flock back to brick-and-mortar stores? Indeed, was it wise to continue to invest in infrastructure the customer didn’t want?
To collect quantitative data, Tallwave surveyed 1,010 individuals across the United States aged 24 and over in April 2021.
Consumers were asked various questions on their behaviors, perceptions, and needs pre and post-pandemic.
The company found that while customer behavior did change as a result of COVID-19, it had not changed to the extent predicted. Some of the key findings include:
- Convenience trumps all – while many brands continued to focus on health and safety, customers still value convenience above all else. Safety-related needs were the next most important for all age brackets (except Gen Z).
- The role of digital experiences – most survey participants who used a company’s digital experience viewed that company more favorably. This proved that in a post-COVID world, the flexibility for consumers to choose their own “adventure” is paramount.
- The accessibility of digital experiences – the survey data also showed that interest in digital experiences declined with age starting with the 45-54 year bracket. Since 66% of those aged 55 and older reported no desire to continue with online experiences after COVID-19, Tallwave argued that increasing digital literacy would drive greater adoption and engagement over the long term.
Additional Case Studies
Examples of Business Scenarios Using Quantitative Research:
- Market Segmentation:
- A company launching a new product conducts surveys to identify which age group is most interested in their product.
- Price Optimization:
- A retail store uses conjoint analysis to determine the optimal price point for a new item.
- Consumer Preferences:
- A beverage company tests various flavors and uses rating scales to determine which new flavor to launch.
- Website Usability:
- An e-commerce site analyzes click-through rates to optimize the layout of their product pages.
- Brand Awareness:
- Advertising Effectiveness:
- A company conducts an online poll to gauge the effectiveness of their recent TV commercial.
- Sales Forecasting:
- A tech firm analyzes past sales data to predict the number of units they will sell in the next quarter.
- Employee Satisfaction:
- A corporation uses standardized questionnaires to gauge employee satisfaction and identify areas of improvement.
- Supply Chain Efficiency:
- A manufacturing company analyzes lead times and delivery speeds to optimize their supply chain processes.
- Product Placement:
- A retail chain reviews sales data to determine the optimal shelf placement for products to maximize sales.
- Customer Loyalty and Retention:
- An airline analyzes frequent flyer data to understand patterns and introduce loyalty rewards.
- Investment Decisions:
- A financial institution uses quantitative analysis to predict stock market trends.
- Optimizing Promotions:
- A supermarket uses sales data to understand which products sell best during promotional events.
- Operational Efficiency:
- A restaurant reviews time-tracking data to optimize shift schedules during peak hours.
- Customer Feedback on New Features:
- A software company uses surveys to gather feedback on a new feature they’ve introduced.
- Economic Forecasting:
- Businesses analyze macroeconomic indicators to forecast market conditions.
- Inventory Management:
- Retailers review sales and inventory data to predict restocking needs.
- Real Estate Decisions:
- A hotel chain uses quantitative research to determine the best locations for new hotels based on travel and occupancy data.
- Competitor Analysis:
- A company reviews market share data to understand their position relative to competitors.
- Customer Support Efficiency:
- A service-based company analyzes call center data to reduce wait times and improve customer service.
- The characteristics of quantitative research contribute to methods that use statistics as the basis for making generalizations about something.
- In a quantitative study, measurable variables are analyzed using standardized research instruments. Importantly, data must be sampled randomly from a large, representative population to avoid biases.
- Quantitative research data should also be presented in tables and graphs to make key findings more digestible for non-technical stakeholders. Methods must also be repeatable in different contexts to ensure greater outcome confidence and validity.
Key Highlights of Quantitative Research Characteristics:
- Quantitative research uses statistics to make generalizations based on measurable variables.
- Standardized research instruments like questionnaires and surveys are used for data collection.
- Random sampling of participants ensures unbiased results from a larger population.
- Data is presented in tables, graphs, or figures for better understanding.
- The research method is repeatable for verification and validity.
- It allows for predicting outcomes and causal relationships.
- Close-ended questioning is used to gather specific and structured responses.
Importance of Quantitative Research:
- Provides objective, data-based insights, trends, predictions, and patterns for businesses.
- Helps in developing marketing strategies and understanding the target audience.
- Focuses on objective measurement and producing unbiased results.
- Offers versatility in statistical analysis techniques for various research goals.
Real-world Examples of Quantitative Research:
- Impact of Social Media Reviews on Brand Perception.
- Teacher Perceptions of Professional Learning Communities.
- Comparison of Course Grades and Retention in Online vs. Face-to-Face Classes.
- Consumer Attitudes Towards Food Product Advertising.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research:
- Qualitative research involves non-numerical data and focuses on understanding human behavior and attitudes.
- Quantitative research relies on measurable variables and statistics to make broad inferences.
- The combination of both methods allows for a comprehensive understanding of complex phenomena.
Sample Size Considerations:
- The sample size is critical in quantitative research to ensure reliable results.
- Larger sample sizes increase precision and reduce the impact of random variation.
- Properly balanced sample sizes are essential for valid and statistically significant conclusions.
- Quantitative Research Characteristics:
- Involves statistical analysis for making generalizations based on measurable variables.
- Uses standardized research instruments like surveys and questionnaires.
- Requires random sampling for unbiased representation from a larger population.
- Presents data through tables, graphs, or figures for visualization.
- Should follow a repeatable method for validation and reliability.
- Enables prediction of outcomes and identification of causal relationships.
- Utilizes close-ended questions to gather specific responses.
- Importance of Quantitative Research:
- Real-World Examples of Quantitative Research:
- Examines social media impact on brand perception.
- Investigates teacher perceptions of professional learning communities.
- Compares online and face-to-face class effectiveness.
- Studies consumer attitudes towards food product advertising.
- Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research:
- Qualitative research focuses on understanding human behavior through non-numerical data.
- Quantitative research emphasizes measurable variables and statistical analysis.
- Combining both methods offers a comprehensive understanding of complex phenomena.
- Sample Size Considerations:
- Sample size is crucial for reliable and accurate results.
- Larger samples enhance precision and reduce random variation impact.
- Balanced sample sizes ensure valid and statistically significant findings.
Read Also: Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research.
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