Overview: Qualitative Marketing Research & How it Benefits Your Hotel
By Johnna Freud Qualitative Research Moderator, Saul Cohen & Associates | October 28, 2008
This article is the first in a series about qualitative marketing research. It provides a basic overview about this methodology, especially for those in the hospitality industry who are not fully acquainted with it.
What is Qualitative Marketing Research?
Qualitative marketing research provides an easy and relatively inexpensive way to gain an in-depth understanding of how and why people think, feel and act the way they do. The primary method used to accomplish these objectives is focus groups. Focus groups comprise small groups of individuals - usually fewer than 12 - who are assembled to participate in an open-ended discussion guided by a trained qualitative research consultant - also called a moderator. In most cases, they are conducted in focus group facilities that enable clients to view them in real time from behind a one-way mirror.
Focus groups are particularly useful to explore consumers' opinions on current offerings or test new ideas. They can provide a setting in which to gain valuable insights into travelers' decision making processes that affect the bottom line of establishments from the smallest bed & breakfast to the largest hotel chain in the world.
When to Use Qualitative Research
We know that people select specific hotels for many different reasons, such as location, price, service, ambiance, and loyalty programs. However, focus groups can provide a forum in which to gain an in-depth understanding, for example, about whether amenities (e.g., airport transportation, business centers, exercise facilities, complimentary breakfast, in-house restaurants and Internet access or WiFi) affect travelers' decisions about where to stay. They can uncover unmet needs, such as amenities that guests would like to have offered, as well as help us to understand the relative importance of these desires.