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What’s the Difference Between Quantitative and Qualitative Community Data? (And When to Use Them)

Written by Julie Dietz on March 13, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Are you using your online community data effectively?

Customer data is one of the biggest advantages of online communities. As customers log in to your community, connect with peers, and start discussions, they not only become more engaged with your brand, they generate data on their needs, habits, and interests.

Your company can use that data to create better products, publish more helpful content, and improve the customer experience.

But not all community data is created equal. Your community collects several types of data that provide different insights about customers. To get the most out your community data, you need to understand what kind of data you have and the best times to use each.

In this article, we’ll look at the differences between two types of community data, quantitative and qualitative, and how you can use both.

Quantitative Data

Anything you can count or present as a number is quantitative data. Online communities can help you gather and calculate two types of quantitative data: vibrancy metrics and business impact metrics.

Vibrancy metrics include data on how active your community is. A few examples include visits, logins, and the number of discussion posts published in a certain time period.

Business impact metrics are closely tied to your company’s performance and often require data from departments outside your community. Customer retention, revenue, and event registrations from the community are all examples of business impact metrics. The better your business impact metrics, the more valuable your community is to your business.

When to Use Quantitative Data

Quantitative data is great for presentations on community health or how your community is benefiting your business. Start with vibrancy metrics that show how many customers are participating in the community and the top ways they’re engaging.

Then use business impact metrics to show how valuable your community is. How many event registrations came in through your community? How much revenue does that translate to? What about revenue from advertising? You can also compare other business impact metrics, like retention, between customers who are active in your community and those who are not active. The comparison will make a clear statement on how your community is improving business results.

Expert Tip: Standalone numbers don’t mean much, so use context to make quantitative data more useful. For instance, community logins might spike every year in June. Is that because your customers are more active in the summer, or because your customer conference is in June? Taking outside factors into account helps explain quantitative data and correlate your numbers with recent events and activities.

Qualitative Data

Information not associated with a number is qualitative. For instance, knowing your customers prefer to read blogs instead of watch videos is qualitative information.

Some of the most valuable qualitative data is about customer interests and needs. What do customers like and dislike about your company? How well do they know your products? What do they want from you in the future? This type of qualitative data is often recorded by sales and account representatives in the “notes” section of CRM contact records.

Online communities are also excellent sources of qualitative data because you can listen to your customers as they interact with your brand and their peers. Both types of conversations help you understand your customers and what they’re looking for.

You may find qualitative information in your community from:

  • Testimonials
  • Brand and product awareness
  • Buying habits
  • Customer characteristics
  • Product feedback
  • Shifts in your target market

When to Use Qualitative Data

One of the best times to use qualitative data is when you’re building personas. Take qualitative information on your customers and prospects – such as job title, interests, and pain points – and use it to create personas that help you understand your audience. The more you understand about the people you’re selling to, the more effective you’ll be at meeting their needs and closing deals.

You can also use qualitative data when drafting marketing materials. Listen to the language customers are using to describe your products in your online community, then put that same language in your emails, brochures, and social media profiles. By using the same language as your target audience, you’ll make materials easier to understand and help customers and prospects connect with your business.

Combine Your Data to Make Better Business Decisions

Quantitative data makes the biggest impression when presenting results, while qualitative data is integral to making smart decisions that lead to great performance. For your business to be successful, you need both.

Use your customer community to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Run reports, visit your community often, and listen to what your customers are saying. Then use the insights you find to create more effect strategies.

Get the formulas you need to calculate your online community's business impact.

Topics: Customer Communities, B2B Communities, Online Community

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