Observational research is a qualitative research method where the target respondent/subject is observed and analysed in their natural/real-world setting. Observational research is used when other data collection procedures, such as surveys, questionnaires, etc. are not effective or adequate. When the goal is to evaluate an ongoing behaviour process, event, or situation; or when there are physical outcomes that can be readily seen.
Observational research typically provides qualitative data as the researcher is observing the subject in their natural setting. The output of Observational research, is sometimes followed with a quantitative survey to support certain behaviors/observations, correlate and derive more meaningful insights.
Methods of Observational research:
- Naturalistic/Covert observational research – Where the researchers do not identify themselves and either mix in with the subjects undetected or observe from a distance.
- Controlled/Overt observational research – Where the researchers identify themselves as researchers and explain the purpose of their observations.
Unlike other quantitative as well qualitative research methods, observational research is usually covert/undeclared research. The key difference between both covert & overt research method is listed below:
Applications of observational research:
Observational Research can provide deeper insights into people’s behaviors and can help in the business-decision process by:
- Shopping behavior/in-store pattern of shoppers – Most frequently visited sections, colors/visual merchandize which attracted their attention, eye movement, time devoted to various sections, time taken in decision making
- Time & motion study of in-store sales promoters
- Uncovering perceived benefits of a product or service
- Seeing how people actually use products or services
- Uncovering new product or service opportunities
- Validating ideas early instead of in the marketplace