Pros and Cons of Qualitative Methodologies
In a complicated world of marketing, how do I choose the right research methodology for my brand?
Focus groups, ethnographies, intercepts, oh my!

At Spectacle, we believe that market research is valuable for brands of any size, but choosing the right methodology for your brand can be daunting and confusing. In our previous post, we explored the value of consumer insights and why you might use market research. In this blog post, we’ll explore our qualitative methodology repertoire, uses for each, and considerations when choosing a path.


Customer Intercepts – $

consumer intercept

What we do: Intercept perceived target consumers at point-of-purchase or in the product's environment (e.g., at store shelf or at a restaurant) and take them through a standardized survey or questionnaire to gain baseline insights

Best for: Getting a quick, relatively cheap read on consumer attitudes around a particular topic


  • Allows you to quickly and cheaply gain Quali-Quant consumer insights at point-of-purchase
  • Can be very cost-effective to talk to a larger sample size (100+ consumers), depending on the type of purchase you’re targeting
  • Quali-Quant insights allow the researcher to gain a baseline read on numerical data around a topic


  • Makes strong assumptions about who your target is and where they will be
  • Low engagement and a short time with consumers means limited conversations and insights one can have with consumers
  • No specific recruiting or screening ability

In Depth Interviews (IDIs or Ethnographies) - $$

in-home interview

What we do: 60-120 minute interviews with consumers in their own homes for deep qualitative insights. Can be done 1-on-1 or in small “best friends” groups

Best for: Seeing things through the lens of the consumer in their own world and diving deep into consumer attitudes, beliefs, and lifestyle


  • Longer conversations yield deeper trust with respondents and more insight into emotional drivers and choice
  • Allows researchers to see the consumer’s “home environment” for a broader picture of who they are
  • Recruiting can be very targeted


  • Recruiting must be done carefully to ensure quality conversations and useful data
  • Can be expensive and time-consuming for a larger sample size

Mobile Ethnographies - $$

mobile ethnography

What it is: Capturing insights through a smartphone app. Consumers complete specific “missions” or assignments showing how they interact with the brand and/or product in real life.

Best for: Observing how consumers interact with the world around them, without interference or filtering


  • App allows us to view a consumer’s life in real-time, unadulterated, and over the course of a longer period of time (one week +)
  • Access to times that might otherwise be “off limits” (e.g., family time, late night, etc.)
  • Flexible sample size


  • Activity design strongly impacts the quality of insights, with limited ability to adjust real-time
  • Often best used in conjunction with IDIs

Focus Groups - $$ - $$$

Likely what comes to mind when you think “market research”, focus groups are 60-120 minute qualitative conversations with 4-8 consumers on a particular topic or category

Best for: Feedback from consumers on specific stimulus or ideas, allowing for group conversation around that stimulus


  • Larger sample size vs. IDIs, while still allowing for more in-depth conversations than quantitative or intercept research
  • Group dynamic can uncover insights that would not be illuminated 1-on-1


  • Quality of insights greatly depends on the ability of the moderator to focus the group’s conversation
  • Groupthink can skew results even with the best moderator
  • Can be costly depending on recruiting incidence and facility cost
Our Recommendation:

Research can take on many shapes and sizes with infinite variations. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, we believe in designing custom research solutions for our clients to best answer the questions at hand. Often, the most informative research is a combination of methodologies to most effectively answer a question, confirm a hypothesis, or illuminate a knowledge gap.

The research experts at Spectacle would love to explore your questions with your team. Contact us for a free research consultation.