In-Depth Interviews Provide Rich Data

Qualitative research is commonly used in the exploratory phase to provide insight and better guidance in the quantitative stage. Qualitative methods in marketing research consist of either focus groups or in-depth interviews. Both methods provide useful information, but in-depth interviews are far more useful when there are limitations in the nature of the study (i.e. personal, sensitive, or confidential information) or when the respondents are not located in the same place. In-depth interviews are also very useful in pre-testing new products.

In-depth interviews are one-on-one interviews that can be conducted through various forms of media including in person, by telephone, and occasionally, online. The format consists of an unstructured interview where the interviewer has a skeleton outline survey to ensure that all key points are covered.

The advantages of in-depth interviews are numerous. As opposed to focus groups, in-depth interviews allow participants to share their opinions without bias from other participants. In focus groups, it may happen that a small percentage of participants give the most feedback. With in-depth interviews, this is avoided. Also, �group-think� bias (where participant�s thinking is influenced by what they are hearing from other participants) is avoided when conducting one-on-one interviews, providing a higher quality of information gathered from the participants.

Because in-depth interviews elicit more information and deliver more value from each participant, the return on investment can be considered greater than focus groups. More of the budget is used to gather information from each respondent rather than to cover the incidental costs of hosting a focus group. In-depth interviews are more flexible and cost-effective because they can be conducted over the phone. This is helpful when the population in the study is spread out over the country or world. It is also helpful for difficult to reach populations.

Another advantage of in-depth interviews is that the completion rate is high. The respondents are unlikely to �drop off� before completion, especially with in-person interviews. The interviewer can acquire more qualitative data and explore answers with the respondents. The interviewer can probe and uncover greater insights than focus groups.

Although in-depth interviews are infrequently used in marketing research, they are especially effective when detailed probing is needed or there is a need for a clear understanding of complicated behavior. They are better suited for situations where respondents might be easily influenced by the group response or if the topic of discussion is personal, sensitive, or confidential (including business respondents being concerned about discussing topics in front of their competitors). When trying to interview respondents who are hard to reach, such as professionals, doctors, IT managers, etc., in-depth interviews are far easier to accomplish than focus groups. Finally, in-depth interviews are more appropriate when testing the product consumption experience when it is sensory in nature.

In-depth interviews are a valuable tool in the marketing research tool box. While they will not result in quantifiable results, there are many research problems where they are appropriately applied with great results.

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