Qualitative vs Quantitative Data — What’s the Difference?


Qualitative vs. Quantitative data.

It sounds kind of like a nursery rhyme or a tongue-twister. But it’s an important distinction that makes a huge difference in how you interpret what is going on in your business.

In this short post, we’ll define each type of data, compare the two, and explore what it means for your business’s success.

Here at Local View, we are big fans of both types of data. Whether you’re building a website, expanding your brand, or growing into new locations—both types of data can help you determine the best course of action.

Let’s get going!

 What is Qualitative Data?

You don’t have to be a scientist or a statistics expert to be curious about qualitative data. Qualitative refers to things that can’t be defined by numbers, measurements, and fixed values.

A simple experience such as going out to dinner could be described in qualitative terms.

“The food tasted great. The chef was exceptional and personally came to our table to check on us. The server was kind and caring. I have serious food allergies and they happily accommodated every single request. I can’t wait to go back— it’s my new favorite place. Everyone I’ve talked to has had a similar experience.”

Qualitative data provides insights and understanding. It is valuable in understanding the causes and conditions for why people behave in certain ways. In this example, the qualitative data frames why customers choose a restaurant for ambiance, service, and a  friendly experience.


What Is Quantitative Data?

Quantitative data refers to things that can be counted and measured in numbers and values. This is the kind of data that is most often represented in statistics.

Data of this type is used to measure things like cost, weight, height, volume, size, density, speed, and age. It is easy to make graphs and charts comparing data of a quantitative nature.

In terms of our dining example, quantitative data could be items such as:

  • How much did the meal cost?
  • How many ounces did the steak weigh?
  • How much was the bottle of wine?
  • How many desserts were over $12?

This kind of data is numeric and is often stated as the most relevant or factual statistic.


What Are The Key Differences Between Qualitative and Quantitative Data?

These two types of data offer different types of insights and understanding of events, experiences, and actions.

What is the Data Type?

Qualitative Data is unstructured.

Quantitative data is structured.

What Is The Approach?

Qualitative data is subjective.

Quantitative data is objective.

What is the Question?

Qualitative answers the “why” question.

Quantitative answers the “how much” or “how many” question.

What is the Method of Research?

Qualitative uses observation, focus groups, and interpretations.

Quantitative uses measurements, numbers, and statistical tests.

What Does it Determine?

Qualitative data is often used to determine the depth of understanding.

Quantitative is used to determine the level of occurrence.

While the two words sound similar, they are quite different.

One way to think of it is that qualitative data is ‘round.’ It shows what is going on in the context. It doesn’t fit on a spreadsheet – but it gives you an essential overview of the landscape.

Quantitative data is ‘square.’ It shows what is going on in discrete terms that fit into a spreadsheet.


Benefits of Qualitative Research for Small Business

Qualitative research helps you understand why prospects and customer makes certain decisions.

Small Size

Qualitative research can be done with smaller groups – such as a focus group or individual interviews. This makes it a very appealing choice for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Small Cost

Because interviews can be done for a smaller group, the cost of qualitative research is often less expensive.

Small Time

Interviews can be done in person or via the phone. These can be done relatively quickly and you can gain insight into what potential customers like and don’t like.


Benefits of Quantitative Research for Small Business

Quantitative research is generally more structured and approached with systematic methods.

The benefits include:

Big Amounts of Data

Questionnaires and surveys can be used to gather a lot of data. Evaluating large amounts of data gives you a broad view of what your customers and prospects prefer.

Big Privacy

Surveys can be conducted anonymously. This makes people feel more comfortable answering honestly about a wide variety of topics.

Big Impact

Quantitative research is done with a big enough sample group to gain valuable data. According to the British Library, the smallest sample size is 100 responses to elicit reliable data.


Why Does It Matter To Your Business?

Here at Local View, we work hard to gather and use qualitative and quantitative data.

Imagine for a moment that you’re in the healthcare business.

You want to help people get access to the best technology and achieve optimal levels of health. To do this, you may gather market research.

Qualitative research explores descriptions of real people and builds an understanding of why people behave in certain ways. It inspires innovative approaches to problems such as new designs for health interventions.


Make Smart Decisions 

Using mixed methodology enables you to make smart decisions in your small business.

If you provide medical services, qualitative research shows that people evaluate services and search websites to select a doctor, massage therapist, or physical therapist. Quantitative research reveals patterns such as customer churn, lifetime customer value, and sales volume.

If your website looks dated, you could be missing the boat. A local competitor with a new website could be winning — purely because their site looks sparkly.

A fresh website communicates that you are up to date on offerings and services.


In Conclusion…

As a busy business owner, you’re looking for a competitive advantage. It’s a lot less stressful and more rewarding to work smarter and use the data.

By gathering both qualitative and quantitative data, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re making the best decisions with the information you have.

Let’s talk about what qualitative and quantitative data can do for your business.


Customer Experience describes the overall perception that customers have of their experience with your business.




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