Editor's note: Laura Cusumano is a St. Louis-based marketing research consultant.

There is nothing new about the slow decline of qualitative research over the past 10 years. It has been driven by many factors: increasing costs in an environment with increasing demands on research budgets; the need to quantify market trends and behaviors in significant detail; fragmented target audiences in the purchase decision; markets with increasing complexity and segments; increased reliance on technology by researchers and respondents ... the list goes on and on. Even though it is slowly becoming a lost art, qualitative research still has an invaluable and unique role in many types and aspects of market research. One of its most impactful roles is to support and complement quantitative research.

As shown in the accompanying chart, qualitative research can be intertwined with the quantitative process in several different ways and at different stages: methodology selection; sample design; screener development; survey design; resolving questions and inconsistencies; and determining next steps. There are several ways to exploit the value of qualitative direction and insight within each step of the process to direct, clarify, refine and optimize value.

Some quantitative firms see the need and value of the qualitative complement. They consistently integrate qualitative research into their studies. If they do not have the capacity in-house, they have established relationships with firms who do.

Unfortunately, many quantitative researchers are not using qualitative tools to complement their quantitative research. For example, why aren’t researchers building qualitative research into standard operating procedures of online research? The most common excuses are that doing so requires time and money. However, qualitative studies do not have ruin an already-tight schedule. There are many extensive panels available fo...