Whether they are conducted in a physical setting or virtually through technology, market research focus groups continue to be one of the most valuable methods of generating qualitative data.
Indeed, there are precise and penetrating insights that simply cannot be gleaned through other primary methods, such as direct mail, online surveys, or in-depth interviews (this is because some people are more amenable to sharing their views in a controlled small group setting vs. engaging directly with a researcher, regardless of how trained and experienced the researcher may be).
While there is no template checklist that definitively affirms or denies whether a business should use market research focus groups -- since this should be decided on a case-by-case and business-by-business basis -- generally speaking there are scenarios where the approach makes sense strategically, practically and financially. These include:
1. When it is valuable or necessary to dig deeper and understand “why” rather than “what.”
If they are properly designed and delivered, surveys can shed light on how research participants feel about an issue, such as the perception of a business’s customer service commitment, price competitiveness, product quality, brand strength, and so on. Obviously, this is useful information. However, it does not (and cannot) tell the full story of “why” respondents think, feel and behave in certain ways. Market research focus groups are ideal for bringing these perceptions to the surface, and helping businesses develop a comprehensive understanding of what they need to achieve, address or overcome in order to generate measurable improvements – and ultimately, drive success and profitability.
2. When samples are biased or participation rates are low.
One of the biggest reasons that businesses fail to reap ROI from their (usually DIY) market research effort and investment, is that their sample size is inherently biased. For example, asking existing repeat customers what influences their purchasing decisions is going to generate very different insights vs. asking the same question of prospective customers who, at least for the time being, are buying from a competitor (or are open to doing so).
At the same time, trying to get participants to complete surveys exclusively through methods like direct mail, online or mobile can be an arduous task -- people are busy, and even with incentives participation rates can be low; especially if the participants need to fit specific demographic and/or professional profiles (e.g. R&D project managers in the aerospace industry, agribusiness CFOs in the upper Midwest, etc.).
Market research focus groups address both of these problems. Bias is mitigated and controlled when the process is led by a qualified researcher, and participation rates are much higher since once people come to a session they are in in the right mindset to make a meaningful contribution (they do not call them “focus groups” for nothing!).
3. When interaction is required or desired.
In some cases, it is beneficial or necessary to have participants interact with products, software, foods, drinks, and so on. Market research focus groups are ideal for this purpose, and because they can involve anywhere from a handful to a dozen people, they can be produced more affordably than one-on-one interviews.
To learn more about whether and when market research focus groups make sense for your unique and customized research plan -- and just as importantly, when integrating them with other data gathering methods or leaving them out of the mix entirely is the wisest course of action -- contact the Communications For Research team today to speak with our co-CEO Colson Steber.
For more information on how market research helps marketing agencies grow existing accounts and much more, download our FREE eBook: