The Power of Qualitative Research: Part 2

Market Research, Qualitative Research

Case studies are a great way to expand our thinking about qualitative research and how it can be applied to different business decision making challenges. To follow-up our new eBook, Applying Qualitative Research to Marketing Challenges: Better Insight, More Success!, we present two additional case studies that demonstrate how qualitative research addresses common marketing and business challenges.

The first case study shows how bringing the customer into the boardroom (often through qualitative research) sets the tone for customer-focused decision making. The second case study is actually several case studies that demonstrate how usability testing can save time and money.


In 2014, topped the 24/7 Wall Street “Customer Service Hall of Fame” list for the fifth consecutive year, an honor that is not surprising given CEO Jeff Bezos’ passion for creating excellent customer service experiences. Even when Amazon was just getting started, Bezos would bring an empty chair with him into meetings. Why? He told associates it was for “the most important person in the room – the customer.” By this example, he instilled customer orientation into the culture and mindset. More recently, he has said, “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs, and we work backward.” That statement explains why the Kindle HD Fire was introduced with a “Mayday” button, which connects the user to a customer service person in less than 10 seconds, an unprecedented level of customer responsiveness. Qualitative research can reveal this level of customer need and the resulting innovation delivered a strong competitive advantage. By talking with customers about their product use experience – and challenges – Amazon is able to continually improve their already very popular Kindle e-reader.


  • Understanding the customer is key to successful product and service innovation – and qualitative research can help you gain that understanding.
  • Use qualitative research to develop impactful stories about your customers so that the customer becomes “real” for employees and management.


Here are some examples of usability testing that helped businesses save money, time and develop products that will be easier to modify for future enhancement:

  • In typical large E-commerce web development efforts, about 5% of features available to the customer are used 95% of the time, while some 70% of user-interface design features are never or rarely used. Based on this information, a new online homegoods retailer used qualitative research-based usability testing to identify which features were likely to be high-use, so that development could focus their efforts on those, saving money and time in development.
  • Research has shown that usability testing earlier in the development process can also save money: a change may cost 1.5 units of project resource during conceptual design, 6 units during early development, 60 units during systems testing and 100 units during post-release maintenance. The earlier qualitative research is brought to bear on the usability problem, the greater the savings in time and money. A residential appliance manufacturer proved this theory by bringing usability testing into the process during conceptual design. The firm estimated it saved $70 million and at least 8 months in development cost and time.
  • An evaluation of a large E-commerce site revealed the search engine returned a wrong or incomplete results 57% of the time. On average 46% of the site’s customers left without locating the items they wished to purchase, even though such items existed and were available on the site. An investment of $25K in qualitative research usability testing of the site could have improved performance significantly. Instead, the company spent more than $1 million in re-design and programming.


  • Investing up front in qualitative research techniques for usability testing is less expensive and time consuming than fixing a product after it has already launched.
  • Usability testing reduces the risk of new product introductions.

Qualitative research has been around in one form or another for decades. Why? Because it works to help businesses make better decisions about brands and new products and services. It helps businesses better understand their customers. And it keeps the customer front-and-center in decision-making, without breaking the bank or slipping the launch date!