Case studies are research documents that are written using real-life situations and data. The aim of a case study is to gain an in-depth understanding of a service, product, event, or activity. Although case studies cover a variety of topics such as education, marketing, and business case studies, they serve different purposes and are commonly categorized in three ways:

  • Exploratory
  • Descriptive
  • Explanatory

Exploratory case studies are traditionally used to inform subsequent and larger research efforts and are based around finding the answers to the questions ‘what’ and ‘who’. 

Descriptive case studies are based around real-life phenomenons and explore how specific situations have been approached by affected groups or individuals. 

Explanatory case studies are usually definitive case studies, used to answer the questions ‘how’ and ‘why’ in situations outside the control of the researcher.

Why are case studies useful?

Case studies are a method of story-telling using real voices to present evidence of how an event, service, product, or activity was used and served a group or an individual. The most useful case studies for consumers are niche-driven and focus on the data that helped similar organizations reach their targets. True data, statistics, and facts are the best driving factor for building trust and when used in case studies, help position service providers as sources of authority within the industry. 

Consumer targeted case studies are intended to explore the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of certain feature promises. For example, if a product feature is intended to promote engagement, a case study will provide real-life examples of how exactly the feature achieved this for an organization.

Case studies should be targeted to a specific outcome and audience to ensure they serve as an informative part of any buying process. The most useful case studies help to lead the reader to confidently draw a conclusion or provide actionable advice for applying new knowledge.

What is the purpose of a case study?

Case studies are used to describe a specific situation in which an entity (person, organization, business, institution, or group) faces and solves a challenge. The content often details the key issues faced, how the pain points were identified and prioritized, and which recommended course of action was taken to solve the issues. As case studies cover specific, real-life implementation of solutions, they are a key source of information for stakeholders and decision-makers.

In summary, the purpose of a case study is to provide factual evidence of applied solutions to organizations looking to solve similar pain points.

How to analyze and use a case study?

When using case studies as part of a buying process, it’s important to focus on what information is most relevant to the decision at hand. For example, the entity being covered might be a household name or famous individual, but this only suggests good visibility rather than quality. A well presented case study will display the key facts and data clearly, making it easy to gain the most applicable information quickly.

Initial Research

Begin by finding case studies that address the pain points the organization is trying to solve and focuses on a company within the same or similar industry. Inform the process by considering what questions need to be asked, for example is the organization trying to:

  • Save time?
  • Save money?
  • Improve visibility?
  • Improve engagement?
  • Encourage membership retention?

Extracting Information

Skim the content for the key data that can answer the target question, this might be presented as:

  • Percentage amounts
  • Hard figures
  • Cost savings

Make a note of this to present to a decision-maker or input to the relevant platform column of a comparison document. Include notes for how that figure was achieved to provide a full picture of the solution.

For example, if a case study claims a company reduced the time issuing credentials by 93.75% - make sure it is understood that the staff went from manually printing, packaging, and posting certificates to automated delivery.

Presenting Findings

An individual researching case studies on behalf of a decision-maker will need to compress the relevant information into an easy to understand summary. A decision-maker researching case studies to inform a purchase will likely create a comparison of key information between various platforms. The best method of presenting findings is dependent on who is engaging with the research and how fast a decision needs to be made, rather than following a strict process.

Case Study Examples

This website provides an easy to browse collection of digital credential case studies. Filter by industry, topic, or platform, and use the data provided to inform the buying process.