In-depth-interviews, a.k.a. "IDIs" to the market research geeks, has been a big part of my life recently. Huge, in fact. What has not been a part of my life, and will not be for the foreseeable future, is quantitative research. And the reason for that is simple: the need for innovation.
When it comes to developing breakthrough innovations that ease market frictions and disrupt the status quo, you just can't get the same quality of insight from survey research as you can from good old fashioned talking to people. Find a selection of target customers and pick their brains. The ability to process large dumps of qualitative feedback is dependent on good judgement as well as a disciplined research technique, of course, but the insights are just so much better.
Quantitative research is great if you want historical behavior data, or very matter-of-fact data on current states. Say - how many credit cards do you own, what operating systems do you use, or when did you last purchase a bottle of milk. But if you want reaction to concepts, or want to sniff out patterns of frustrations and opportunities for improvements, forget the numbers. Instead, listen to the voices, watch the body language, and subjectively evaluate how the whole context of the conversation, i.e. the subject matter of your research, really affects the customer. You'll learn more in 30 minutes and for the price of two coffees than you will with umpteen questions and thousands of dollars in research costs.
At the end of the day, product innovation is about real people, good judgement and insights driven by a deep understanding of market emotions. Qualitative research captures that the best.
There is a time and a place for hard data. The innovation phase of product development is not often it.