With the adoption of technologies that offer convenient engagement opportunities, it might seem as if the traditional focus group has seen its day come and go. Market research online communities (MROCs), mobile and social media platforms that allow near 24/7 feedback, as well as chat rooms and video and photo diaries, mean market researchers and the companies they assist have greater access to respondents and the valuable opinions they hold. But don’t write off the staid “focus group” just yet. The Internet can and does offer market researchers a quick and seemingly easy way to solicit respondent feedback, but the focus group experience provides an intimacy and security that a computer screen can never provide. So how do you know when convening a focus group makes the most sense? Take a look at our top three tips:
Use a Focus Group to Uncover What You Don’t Know – The “What”
Quite frequently, companies need help determining where to start with their research objectives. Maybe they don’t know how to target and reach consumers. Maybe they want to explore what a certain group will need or want in the future. In these instances, a group discussion with the right audience can point them to issues that are particularly pressing or concerning, enabling them to plan subsequent action accordingly. It can highlight the right language to use and the right questions to ask later. A moderator who is physically present with a group can monitor the ways respondents react to each other’s views and consider non-verbal clues to help steer conversation and keep group members on task so that the thought processes behind their buying decisions and their perceptions of new products and brand concepts are revealed. This information paves the way for further, in-depth quantitative study.
Use a Focus Group to Explore in Depth What You’ve Uncovered Previously – The “Why”
Conversely, focus groups make sense when companies need to explain information they’ve already uncovered. Rather than only identifying what needs to be addressed, focus groups can help companies delve into the nuances affecting their products and services. In fact, the beauty of the live focus group lies in its open-ended, interactive format, which allows respondents to hear, respond to and alter opinions in an organic and safe environment. This means that a more complex and thorough picture emerges for the issues being discussed. In essence, focus groups can help investigate why a certain response or opinion or situation “is what it is.”
Use a Focus Group to Test Materials – The “How”
Finally, focus groups are great ways to test products, services, promotional materials and concepts. They are quick to organize and provide real-time access to consumer reactions. How group members actually interact with a product or concept often differs from the way they describe that interaction. Thus, market research is made more robust when consumers are seen in an on-site environment using and talking about the products and concepts at hand.
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To learn more about focus groups and when they can help inform and improve your practices, contact our team at Communications for Research (CFR). We can take your objectives and your budget and create a manageable and meaningful market research plan that gets you actionable results!