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How to conduct your focus group like a pro this Christmas

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat… and market researchers everywhere are going crackers about their upcoming research projects. Why? Because carrying out a focus group over holiday periods always tends to be that little bit more difficult.

From school holidays and people taking time off to everybody rushing around Christmas shopping, visiting family and generally being busier, the chances of having research that goes ahead as planned are a lot slimmer. Added to the rush of end of year deadlines where we also see a big spike in research projects, you can see why the festive period is a tad stressful for market researchers.

Don’t worry, though – that’s what this blog’s for. In fact, there are a number of hints and tips you can put in place to try and combat the impact of the Christmas period on your upcoming projects. From thorough research to pre-planned recruitment times, read on for our top five tips on how to ensure your focus group go ahead as planned without any unwanted festive surprises…

1) Nail your recruitment timings

It goes without saying that over the Christmas period your network of available potential respondents is going to be smaller, therefore, it’s recommended that you start your recruitment and planning as early as possible to avoid the busiest times within the festive period. Ideally, we’d recommend recruitment to commence in November with an aim to conduct smooth research during December.

By factoring earlier recruitment times into your project plan, you will have more time to find the right respondents for your study – and because your respondents will have plenty of notice about what they need to do and when, you’ll likely have fewer dropouts on the day, too.

2) Always over-recruit

Despite all of your thorough planning, the fact is that you are always going to be faced with more dropouts over Christmas – which is why you should always over-recruit for focus groups to make sure you have every eventuality covered. This is especially important for methodologies such as focus groups that rely on a certain number of participants. By over-recruiting, you can be confident that whatever happens, you will have the right amount of people on the day – just be sure to offer your over-recruits an incentive for their time even if you don’t end up needing them.

Conducting a focus group over the festive season

3) Make sure your respondents are fully informed

By making your respondents aware from the very beginning that the research is scheduled to take place during the Christmas period, you are less likely to have to deal with dropouts further down the line. We would recommend more regular communication with participants in a variety of formats which is not just limited to email and text confirmations but also includes personalised phone call reminders too. We recommend the latter option on the morning of the research for evening sessions to fully maximise attendance.

You should also consider exactly when the research is taking place during the festive season. The last week leading up to Christmas is not recommended for research studies, especially on Thursdays or Fridays as these are the most popular days for Christmas parties. If there was a possibility of conducting the research earlier on in the month this would be recommended for optimal participation.

Not only will participants be fully prepared for what is expected of them and when, but they can also double check any prior parties or events they have in the diary and let you know earlier if they can’t attend – giving you plenty of time to find other participants if needed. 

4) Do all your research beforehand

One of the most important things you can do when scheduling a research project during holiday times is to do your research to avoid any nasty surprises. For example, did you know that the north and south of England have different school holidays which will have a big impact on who can attend and when? And even within one region private and public schools have different holiday dates to consider, too. By having as much information as possible to hand, you can make sure you’re as prepared as possible.

Research has shown that the most popular times for Christmas parties is the week leading up to Christmas. This week includes Mad Friday (Friday 23rd December 2016) which is the biggest night of the year for Christmas parties to take place so bear this in mind when conducting your research. Considerations should also be made for other religious holidays taking place within the festive period such as Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and how this might affect your recruitment.

5) Consider your demographic

Our final piece of advice is to consider your demographic when planning your research. For example, school holidays begin from the 16th December (regions depending) so if the demographic of your research is likely to be a parent then this needs to be considered as they will be less available during these times due to childcare commitments. Our recommendation to help combat this is to organise research to take place during the evenings or lunchtimes.

If you decide to conduct a focus group over the festive period, be sure to download our helpful guide to find out how to recruit the best possible participants.

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