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What is a focus group and how can it benefit your market research?

The lowdown on focus groups

Focus groups are one of the most effective and frequently used market research methodologies available. Used to gather qualitative data and in-depth insights, they enable researchers to collect information on anything from products and services to beliefs and perceptions in order to reveal true customer attitudes and opinions. A typical focus group will see six to ten exclusively elected people brought together with a trained moderator to take part in a planned discussion where they will be asked a series of pre-determined questions to discover their true perceptions about a particular topic or area of interest. This results in an open-ended, free-flowing discussion that will then be used to help businesses make informed decisions.

The different types of focus groups

Traditionally, focus groups would take place in person at a facilitated location. However, due to today’s technological advances, focus groups aren’t necessarily held only in person anymore  – they can now take place online, over Skype or even via teleconferencing. Of course there are pros and cons to both: online makes it easy to gather participants from all over the country without people having to travel to one location – and as virtual reality continues to evolve, in the next five to 10 years participants might even be able to touch and feel items within a focus group digitally. However, face-to-face focus groups benefit from a greater rapport between respondents, which encourages a more flowing dialogue.

The benefits of focus groups

So what is it that makes focus groups so popular, time and time again? Well, focus groups can offer incredibly in-depth answers due to the fact moderators are able to probe participants, keep the respondents engaged and interested whilst ensuring the discussion takes the necessary routes to discover the best possible results.

Focus groups also encourage better group discussions and increased interaction, which enables participants to really talk and debate, unlocking new insights that would otherwise remain undiscovered. They also allow moderators to probe deeper into specific topics to uncover hidden issues or problems. Not only that, but focus groups also allow researchers to utilise co-creation with participants. This collaboration/workshop effect involves participants in developing ideas and concepts, encouraging them to bounce ideas off each other, which in turn enables businesses to build products and service directly with customers.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are also a great way to gather specific understandings of products and services as participants can physically touch and feel items. This is incredibly useful when it comes to product packaging or feedback on new product development as researchers can yield first-hand spontaneous reactions from the respondents to reveal their true thoughts.

Another benefit is that they involve the client. In a focus group setting, the client can be present on the day to observe the focus group, or if it is taking place online or via Skype, they can log in to view the discussion as it takes place, meaning that the research will have more credibility with the clients. Finally, despite generating in-depth results, focus groups are actually cheaper to conduct than a number of other market research methods yet produce the same – if not better – levels of participant insight.

When focus groups might not be useful

The main weakness of focus groups is that they use a statistically small sample size population – so the opinions expressed may not be representative of the population as a whole. This means that researchers requiring access to a larger sample size might be better off looking at alternative methodologies. However, focus groups can still be used in combination with quantitative methods – in fact, because the insights of a smaller sample size are often more valuable, researchers will often conduct qualitative research such as a focus groups before quantitative research in order to discover key insights before putting the information of to a wider market to investigate it further.

If you have been asked to carry out a focus group, why not give us a call today? Alternatively, download our latest guide and find out how to recruit the best possible participants for your focus group.

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