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The Battle Between Qualitative and Quantitative Data

The Battle Between Qualitative and Quantitative Data

Find out why qualitative and quantitative data are both valuable resources that make a marketing team’s efforts make a more positive customer experience.

Building a brand has always involved a mix of art and science. It’s just that the shift to data-driven marketing has made it easier to get the combination right.

No matter the goals the CMO and their team sets — whether it’s raising awareness, driving affinity or attracting prospects and converting them— successful marketing is based upon making smart decisions.

Data is the richest, most objective way to inform those decisions, and to continually learn from the way marketing strategies play out. This includes both quantitative data and qualitative data.

What Is Quantitative Data In Marketing?

Marketers have always relied on quantitative data of some kind, even in the days before most business information was digitized.

A retailer might have trained its associates, for example, to ask customers where they heard about the store, and noted the number of times a newspaper or radio ad was mentioned. Larger brands might have tracked the audience polling information from TV advertising to ensure they had made a smart investment in creating commercials spots.

Today, digital technologies are allowing quantitative data in marketing to be collected, managed and analyzed at a scale that would have been unimaginable even a few years ago. Marketers can now track everything from web site visits to the opening of email newsletters, to the clicks on digital ads—even how often their social media posts are shared. It can be a great way to measure the impact of marketing on sales.

What Is Qualitative Data In Marketing?

When people use the phrase “great marketing” however, the images that likely come up are not simply numbers. They are the images from a brand’s advertising, the funny video that went viral on YouTube, or the social media posts that were written with just the right tone.

These creative elements all speak to the storytelling skills marketing teams use. They are also a good reminder that marketing is rooted in what customers care about — and sometimes you need to have a free-form way of capturing their feedback.

This is qualitative data, which has also been used for decades as an essential ingredient in marketing. An early example might have been focus groups, where a representative sample of customers were brought into a room to gauge their reaction to a brand’s latest products or to weigh in on the relevance of its marketing assets.

Brands can go way beyond focus groups today, using a variety of digital channels to meet their customers wherever they are and gather real-time feedback. This could include what customers write in the open-ended fields of a survey, for instance. Marketers can also assess the sentiment of their customers based on what they say and share on social media. Comments on blogs and videos could also offer valuable quantitative data.

Thanks to tools like marketing automation platforms, CMOs and their teams can synthesize qualitative data to look for trends and patterns that help them in much the way they use quantitative data.

Making Qualitative And Quantitative Data Work Together For Better Marketing

Though they have sometimes been treated as islands unto themselves, the best marketers become adept at blending their use of qualitative and quantitative data in their everyday work.

Imagine a brand is getting ready to launch a new product, for example. This could involve a campaign that includes digital advertising across a network of publisher sites.

From the moment the campaign begins, the marketing team should be able to track a variety of quantitative data such as:

  • How often the ad was served to a potential customer

  • How many of the views turned into a click to the brand’s website

  • How many of those clicks led to an e-commerce purchase of the product

  • How many times social media ads were “liked” or reshaped

  • How many times an online video for the campaign was viewed and liked.

At the same time, the marketing team could also be learning from qualitative data that emerges from the campaign, including:

  • Comments on social media or on the video from the campaign

  • Reviews of the product as the first purchases are made

  • Comments from “live” moments on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

  • Feedback from post-purchase surveys

  • Questions and comments made in a chat session on the brand’s web site.

This data could then be used to assist in a whole host of decisions that follow. Some of the data could suggest how a similar or follow-up campaign could perform better. Qualitative data such as click-throughs could help the team change where ads appear, for instance, or how often. Qualitative data could lead to tweaks in the campaign creative, whether it’s the imagery that’s used or the written content that appears as part of the campaign.

How Marketers Should Frame Their Use of Quantitative and Qualitative Data

The digital-first era in which we live means that brands are always-on, and collecting data at incredible volumes and great variety. Rather than get overwhelmed by the deluge, think about what you want to learn from the data before the analysis begins.

In some cases, for instance, quantitative data can determine whether a brand is reaching its total addressable market, or whether there are gaps in terms of offering a truly omnichannel experience to its customers.

Qualitative data can be harnessed to explore perceptions about a brand, including any misunderstandings about what its products can do or the values it represents.

Most of all, both qualitative and quantitative data can help brands take more of a test-and-learn approach to their marketing. They could A/B test two different versions of a piece of campaign creative, for instance, and measure both who preferred each one and what they said about each one.

Ultimately, marketing isn’t a battle between qualitative and quantitative data. They’re both valuable tools that can empower a marketing team to shape a more seamless, personalized and engaging customer experience.

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