Unlike other forms of data collection, focus groups reveal detailed information and insight. This is done by allowing participants to provide in-depth meaning behind their thoughts and opinions.
For researchers in the know, focus groups have been a go-to for collecting qualitative data as far back as the 1920’s
Though becoming more common in the last decade, focus groups have long been a mainstay in the field of market research. In fact, focus groups have been detailed as far back as the 1920’s. This form of market research increased in appeal around the 1940s as many sociologists were looking for alternative ways of conducting research interviews.
Focus groups played a valuable role in the U.S. as far back as the Second World War
Focus groups were utilized to measure the effectiveness of training materials for American troops by Sociologist Robert Merton. Coming out of the war, U.S. industry was booming, and market researchers were looking to find out how their products could be more attractive to American customers.
The focus group appeared to be the ideal method for both exploring the customers’ needs and identifying their attitudes. Focus groups have evolved over the years within market research, strongly influencing everything from product design to promotions and advertising.
So what exactly is a focus group?
A focus group is a marketing research technique involving the recruitment of individuals who participate in a planned discussion in order to further the understanding of consumer opinions in a controlled environment.
Ideally, a focus group is anywhere from 60 to 150 minutes in duration (Note: Most sessions run about 120 Minutes).
A good focus group is structured and well directed, with the discussion built around fostering unique input from carefully recruited group members.
Because of the unique blend of scientific research and group dynamics, focus groups can yield quite a bit of information in a relatively short time.
Why focus groups?
As humans we are naturally social beings. Whether realized or not, individuals both in the U.S. and around the world perform in groups for much of their daily interactions. The focus group harnesses this human characteristic, utilizing a natural tendency as a tool for data collection.
In group discussions, we encourage all participants to freely and openly speak their mind. We want all respondents points of views to be heard. It doesn’t matter if they’re the only person that holds a specific opinion. It is extremely important that we hear all opinions and voices. Everyone is free to agree or disagree based on how they actually feel.
Your opinions ARE important. It is these discussions that are the real benefit of the group dynamic. It creates a synergy that usually results in outcomes and ideas that are more collaborative in nature. These ideas might not happen in a one-on-one setting.
Focus groups can achieve insight into what a group of people are really thinking and feeling
The ingredients of a successful focus group are getting the right people, in the right place, with the right group moderator.
Focus groups allow group members to interact and influence each other through discussion while voicing their own ideas and perspectives. The group’s discussion is led by a moderator, who is generally an individual adept in leading groups in conversation.
The moderator’s ability to foster a relaxed group experience is key. A good moderator ensures the right environment to enable people to freely express their thoughts, allowing them a safe-space to make sense of their views.
Recruiting for your focus group
Focus group recruiting is one of the key factors to conducting an effective study. In short, without proper recruitment the validity of the focus group is compromised.
The quality of the research is also largely dependant on the quality of the discussion…
The first few moments in focus group discussions are critical. In that brief time the moderator must create a permissive atmosphere, lay down ground rules, and set the overall tone of the discussion. Much of the success of any one focus group can be attributed to the development of this open environment by the moderator.
Participants must be made comfortable to interact openly. Moderators should avoid abrupt changes of topic, and ensure that all participants in the group contribute as equally as possible.
In a typical focus group, users tell you about their experiences or expectations regarding a given subject or product. The group needs to be small enough to allow everyone an individual opportunity to share insights, and yet big enough to provide group interaction and diversity of experience.
Individuals are not under pressure to give answers on the spot. They can take into account the points raised by other members and, as they consider the issues being raised, may develop ideas which would remain untapped in a personal interview.
Common market research situations where focus groups are ideal include:
- Understanding possible complications in a buying process
- Identifying customer needs
- Identifying how a product is being used
- Testing of a new product
- Identifying satisfaction levels and other factors of employees, customers, and suppliers
- Exploring perceptions of varying elements attributed to the brand
The research pays off
Focus groups provide in-depth analysis requiring a team of researchers to define, measure, and extrapolate the data set into workable information.
Participants’ comments must be turned into essential information using a systematic and verifiable process.
The analysis process safeguards the quality of the data with systematic analysis through verifiable procedures in order to avoid misleading conclusions.
Focus groups deliver in-depth information in situations where the exploration and identification of attitudes, behaviours, and processes are the primary research objectives
Why? What? How?
Often times in market research, there is more to these three little questions than meets the eye. In fact, focus groups aim to illuminate why individuals answer these three questions the way that they do.
There are three main ways that focus groups are utilized to collect and supplement data sets:
- The Stand-Alone Method
In this method, the focus group serves as the principle source of research data.
- Supplementary To a Survey
Focus groups may be used to enhance a primary data set, identifying particular issues or providing deeper understanding.
- Multi-Method Design
Some studies require several sources of data collection with no one method determining the use of others.
When is the right time to utilize a focus group?
Every research situation is unique, and there are many different circumstances where utilizing a focus group can be viable way to conduct market research. Introducing a new product or service, supplementing a written survey, or gaining answers to questions not easily asked are just a few examples of how focus groups are put to work.
At Consumer Opinion Services, part of our job is to identify the right research method for you in order to gain the best insight available.
If you want to know if a focus group is right for you or your business, talk with Consumer Opinion Services today…
Consumer Opinion Services Inc. (COS) has provided clients both in the U.S. and all across the world with market research and data collection services for over 50 years. Founded in 1960, we conduct qualitative, quantitative, and hybrid studies with focus group facilities in Seattle, Portland, and Las Vegas.
Our reliability, insight, and consistency have earned Consumer Opinion Services a reputation as an industry leader in high quality market research and data collection. COS is a primary research provider for leading corporations, research companies, and consultants locally, nationally, and around the globe.
Communication is key, but recruiting is king
COS does a 100% validation of all scheduled research participants to ensure that all respondents meet our clients’ criteria. Our experience in the industry has allowed us to build and maintain a recruited consumer panel of over 100,000 respondents, of which we track over 200 demographic and personality attributes. Through the use of our Recruitment Management System (RMS) we consistently deliver on target, timely and high value recruits for your projects. Let us put our network to work for you.
On location, any location
Wherever your research takes you, COS can provide the necessary in-field support to transform any space into a top-rated focus group facility. Whether it’s on site, at your location, or in the middle of nowhere, we’ve got you covered with:
- Experienced & skilled on-location staffing and AV technicians
- On-location Closed Circuit AV monitoring (observation)
- On-location video and audio recording
- Logistical support including rentals, catering, shipping and supplies
- Thousands of past on-location focus group sessions
- Turn-key solutions for focus group site rentals, group participants, and contracts
- International on-location abilities
Talk with Consumer Opinion Services today
Focus groups are a time-tested standard for focused market research. With almost 60 years of top-level experience, let us put our abilities and know how to work for you.
Whether you are actively looking to put together a focus group, or just beginning to wonder what types of research solutions are the right fit for your needs, talk with Consumer Opinion Services and get on the right track to meeting your research goals.