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06 Apr 2021 -

With 10 respondents, you have mapped out most of the pluses and minuses of your concept or commercial.

How “valid” are the results of qualitative research really? Due to the insatiable hunger for data, this question comes up regularly. Because the larger the numbers, the easier it is to sell the results within your own organization. But with this focus on quantity and hard data, you might miss an opportunity. N = 10 is often enough to get valuable insights.

Saturated more important than full!

In qualitative research, the number of respondents who participate is not the indicator of good insights. But what is, is what you could describe as the “saturation point” of an investigation. How many people do you have to talk to, to notice that you are “not hearing anything new”?

Research has shown that with 10 respondents you have an overview of between 80 and 95% of your insights. That is most of the pluses and minuses of the investigated concepts, communication routes and prototypes. The big advantage is that you get more insight into the “why” of those pluses and minuses. This will give you direction for possible solutions. An important side note is the following. The N = 10 must be slightly larger if you are dealing with widely differing target groups. Think of questions for parents and children or international issues. But even then, there are often more similarities in the pluses and minuses than you expect. What you learn when you enter into a deeper conversation with a smaller group of participants. That the direction of the solutions can be very different than you expect. If there are any question marks when you choose a qualitative approach, you can explain that satiety is more important than your “full food”!

Reassurance of system 1

Output can also be made “harder” within qualitative research. Because graphs, heatmaps and diagrams reassure our “impulsive system 1” more than textual representations. And a “more reassured system 1” ensures that our “reflective system 2” is also more based on trust.

We notice that clients respond enthusiastically to the use of tools that achieve measurable output. For example, measuring the search time for a new packaging design on the shelf. Or making the emotional flow of a commercial visible at a second level. Both agencies and clients certainly realize that with 10 emotional flows you will not find significant differences. However, trends can certainly be observed. And the “measurability” of the results contributes to the substantiation of the conclusions and recommendations from your N = 10 conversations. So make smart use of all those tools that are available. They not only provide interesting learnings but also contribute to the reliability experience of your results!

Focus in conversations

The output of these tools also gives more focus for the qualitative conversations. What do you want to deepen, what is already clear? It helps participants to articulate exactly where things went wrong in a commercial and why. It helps to understand why that one package is preferred over the one that can be found so quickly. And of course to arrive at concrete, clearly substantiated recommendations based on this. Clients also like it of course!

In short, if you end up in an “N = 10” discussion again, you need to discuss “the validity of your results”. Then “saturation” and the integration with “hard tools” offer the solution. Use it to your advantage!

Want to know more about qualitative research? Contact Gaby Siera for an inspiring meeting.

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