Qualitative Research 101 by Amazon Manager, PM, Pamela Brown

What is qualitative research?

  • Qualitative research: customer interviews, focus groups, product reviews, etc.

  • Quantitative research: sales and usage reports, quantitative metrics, A/B test results, etc.

Qualitative research sometimes gets a bad rap because some people see it as subjective and not rigorous enough. But these people do not always represent the general population of users. Not much can be learned from this.
Qualitative research has limitations, it involves small sample sizes and cannot be extrapolated to represent the entire population of its user base. Data interpretation can be subjective and difficult to replicate, but quantitative studies also have limitations. And as a PM you need to understand the limitations of both and figure out when it's appropriate to use which type of research and data.

Why use qualitative research?

  • Qualitative research: when you're trying to understand the why`s and the how's.

  • Quantitative research: when you're trying to understand the what's and the when`s.

When to use qualitative research?

  • At the start of product development process

Most people cannot articulate their pain points because they are not aware of them. Only when you go deep and really listen to the client can you open them up. This is when you, as a PM, know that you have stumbled upon something. When you can identify a pain point that your client is unaware of, qualitative research helps you uncover the client's unspoken problems. And these are the problems that PMs are most interested in solving when customers don't even know they exist.

  • When prototyping and testing product concepts

  • When trying to formulate hypotheses and interpret quantitative data.

Qualitative research is used when you need to dive deeper into quantitative data.

How to conduct qualitative research

Sections of a Research Brief

  • Research objective: purpose of research

  • Hypotheses and research questions: key questions that flow from research objective

  • Background: context and data

  • Target audience / sampling: who are the participants and how will you recruit them?

  • Methodology:how will you collect and analyze data

  • Deliverables: what is the output and who will receive it?

  • Timeline

  • Budget

Tips for getting started

  • Buddy up

  • Practice writing and asking open-ended questions

  • Reflect on what you heard

Key takeaways

  • Qualitative research is great for discovery and understanding the why`s and how's.

  • Qualitative data can complement quantitative data. Get comfortable using both.

  • How you use qualitative research will depend on your research objective and key questions.

  • Dive in and start talking to customers!

Pamela Brown, Amazon Manager, PM