Archive for the ‘Online Focus Groups’ Category
With worldwide expenditure on online research predicted to almost treble over the next three years, market research specialist B2B International believes the future is rosy for most online techniques, especially focus groups.
The technological revolution of the past 15 years has led to the rapid development of online data collection methodologies. Of these, the online survey is the most established but, more recently, online focus groups have emerged, making it possible to obtain qualitative information online.
Following similar principles to Internet message boards, the online focus group differs from online surveys in that it allows every participant to see the responses of all of the other respondents and encourages them to respond to these views as well as to the initial question posed by the researcher. In addition, the researcher inserts questions as the discussion develops, in order to probe areas of particular interest, or to gain further information on new topics that participants introduce to the discussion. In this way, online focus groups enable a real-time, dynamic discussion to develop between the researcher and the respondents, just as would be the case with a face-to-face focus group.
Business-to-business market research specialist B2B International has been firmly established in the online research industry since the company’s inception in 1998 and remains one of the forerunners in e-enabled research. B2B International has recently published a comprehensive White Paper – Using Online Focus Groups As A Business-To-Business Research Technique – which gives a balanced assessment of the rationale behind using the online focus group as a research methodology.
The White Paper outlines 13 key reasons to conduct online focus groups:
In addition to highlighting the undisputed benefits, B2B International Director Matthew Harrison, author of the White Paper, shares some of the insights that B2B International has learned through the large number of online focus groups it has conducted over the last several years. According to Harrison: “Online focus groups can take place for a defined period of, say, 90 minutes, as with a face-to-face focus group but our experience shows us that online groups are more effective when spread over a period of 2 days, with respondents entering the discussion at different times to suit their convenience. This way, groups generate more considered opinion and a greater volume of information, adding real value to the research.”
However, internet focus groups are not suited to every research project and B2B International is quick to recognise the limitations. These include the fact that certain target audiences – particularly the less web-savvy – are less suited to online groups than others; respondent recruitment can be labour-intensive and expensive; and certain limitations exist with presenting physical stimulae for respondents to touch, feel or smell.
In spite of this, Harrison is optimistic about the future for online focus groups: “There are many reasons why we believe the prominence and effectiveness of online focus groups will increase, but key among them would be convenience and technology. Increasingly busy schedules coupled with the need to speak to respondents all across the world make online focus groups an ever more viable option. Secondly, there will continue to be huge advancements in the capabilities of and familiarity with technology, enabling greater numbers of respondents from all across the world to take part with increasing ease and improved effectiveness.”
To read the white paper in full, please click here.
In her latest Thursday Night Insight, Chrissie Douglas highlights the sheer pace and scale of economic change in the UK (the so called credit crunch), how this has completely changed our perceptions of things that we have always taken for granted (i.e. that our money is safe in the bank!), and the fact that market research is now perhaps more important than ever to keep in touch with what exactly is going on out there.
Let me start by telling you about my banking experience in the last six months. After ten years of riding the property boom we sold our house and put the proceeds in the safe hands of our family bank – Royal Bank of Scotland, whilst waiting for our next dream move. The months passed and as the property market began to decline we felt great in the knowledge that our secure pot would actually buy more as time went on. We thought we were playing it by the book. We’d made some money and we’d put the proceeds away safely in the bank with no risk – just as we’d always been told to do (“after all, your money is always safe in the bank”).
This all changed in October last year with news reports that British banking giant Royal Bank of Scotland was about to collapse. The share price had fallen from over £2.50 to 40p (a fall of 84%!) in a matter of days and was on the verge of going under. We had to move quickly. A review of the alternatives revealed that the only 100% safe option for savings was now the Post Office (owned by the Bank of Ireland), following the Irish government’s pledge to guarantee 100% of all savings in Irish Institutions. So the money was safe again, or so we thought. Just after Christmas, amidst continuous press reports of financial doom and gloom, we noticed that the Irish economy was worst hit and on the verge of bankruptcy. The promise of their 100% safety on savings was not worth the paper it was written on (they would not have the funds to back up this guarantee if bankruptcy occurred). With the hysteria surrounding the bankruptcy of the Iceland economy and the loss of savers’ deposits in Icesave still fresh in our minds, we moved the money back to RBS where incidentally it would have been safe all along (in the meantime RBS had become 75% owned by the British government).
The point of telling this story is to highlight the rapid scale and pace of change, and that things that you had always taken for granted are not necessarily so in the current climate. The term ‘credit crunch’ has become part of our everyday vocabulary but, until it hits you on a personal level, I don’t think you appreciate the nature of the current financial situation in the UK. Things are changing very quickly and it is difficult to keep up.
A quick review of recent headlines highlights this point. For example:
There are many more examples but the common theme is that economic decline seems to be on a bigger scale and is changing faster than ever before. Nobody knows what is going on. Nobody knows what will happen next. All we do know is that we have to carry on and plan for the future as we have always done.
This brings me back to the topic of market research. In this current environment it would be understandable to remove market research from your list of top priorities. It may be hard to justify expenditure on something that may be out of date soon after completion (given the pace and scale of change, last year’s market research may already be out of date). However, companies still need to make informed decisions on future direction. I would argue that market research is actually now more important than ever. What we really need is continuous customer monitoring that is cheaper and has a quick turnaround. Luckily with the aid of new technology, market research techniques have come on leaps and bounds and now enable us to keep our nose to the ground. For example, e-surveys, online focus groups, internet panels and bulletin boards are all providing us with the ability to keep up and keep in touch.
For more information on how B2B International can help you stay in touch, please call one of the B2B teams on +44 (0)161 440 6000 or +1 914 761 1909.
A recent article featured in BtoB magazine – Online market research takes off
The article estimates that 43% of all survey research carried out last year was conducted online. Whilst quantitative consumer research has been leading the online research charge, thanks to a much greater number of potential respondents, b-to-b research is believed to be heading in the same direction.
But it’s not just quantitative research techniques – the most widely used of which is the online survey – that are increasing in popularity. Qualitative research techniques, such as online focus groups and online panels, are increasing in prevalence too.
B2B International Director, Matthew Harrison, was interviewed for the article. He acknowledged that around 15% of B2B International’s overall research happens online, with particularly high usage among our Asian markets, especially Japan.
Harrison recognizes that the feasibility of online research is sometimes limited by the availability of qualified contact lists, but if such lists are available, this is a useful data collection method. As well as faster turnaround times, there are often significant cost-savings associated with online market research.
Yet in spite of its many benefits, online research is almost always a complement to traditional research techniques. All techniques used in the market research industry have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. For example, online research techniques may not allow such detailed open-ended probing as telephone research, and response rates can be lower than with other methods.
When defining the methodology of any market research project, B2B International carefully considers the research objectives, and assesses which technique – or combination of techniques – will yield the best results within a given budget. These include, more and more frequently, a range of online techniques, but not to the exclusion of tried and tested ‘traditional’ methods.
Why not read our white paper, Using Online Focus Groups As A Business-To-Business Research Technique?
In his latest Thursday Night Insight, Oliver Truman looks in detail at a creeping trend in our personal and business lives that is starting to have a profound impact on the way we interact with technology.
Every now and then an innovation comes along that makes you sit up and take notice. Just such an event happened to me (and, I’m sure, thousands of other geekily-minded folks like myself) last week, with the unveiling of OnLive – A new video gaming service in the US, which promises to change the shape of the computer games industry forever.
I should perhaps declare at this point that, contrary to appearances, I am not tremendously into computer gaming – I freely admit that the last (and indeed first) games console I owned was a venerable Nintendo Entertainment System in the early 1990s. The reason OnLive caught my eye lies not in the graphics nor the gameplay on offer, rather my interest was captured because it offers one of the most transparent and obvious applications yet of the phenomenon of “cloud computing”.
With OnLive, computer games are no longer installed or run on the end user’s machine – this is all left to a powerful web server housed in a central location. Instead, the gamer effectively watches a live, high-definition video stream of what is running on this server using their Internet connection. This means even a low-end computer (or television set, with a small adaptor) can run the most demanding of games. No installation or downloading time is wasted, and customers can dip in and out of a whole array of different titles on a subscription-based model.
This essential concept – that application software or user data is no longer stored locally, but remotely somewhere in the “cloud” that is the Internet – is what lies behind cloud computing. And its effect stretches far beyond the world of computer games
Moreover, many CRM systems are now web-based, allowing sales teams instant access to client and prospect data, wherever they may be at the time. In a business context, data becomes pervasive and instantly available, in any place and at any time.
And away from the sober world of business, cloud computing also allows for services such as Spotify to develop. Spotify is an online music streaming service that allows free, instantaneous access to virtually any song or album from the last 30 years. The storage burden is no longer upon the user’s machine, but is instead taken on by a huge server farm out there in the ether.
So how is all this affecting the world of market research?
Perhaps the most obvious projection of “the cloud” on the research industry has been in the development of online research techniques. Online surveys, which are increasingly becoming the methodology-de-jour in both consumer and business-to-business markets, are now fairly well established, and it would seem strange to highlight this as a new development.
What is different is the melding of the online world with the offline. This is most clearly seen in the latest generation of mixed-methodology data collection software, which allows the simultaneous collection of data online, via the telephone or even face-to-face. This offline element has traditionally been managed by internal systems, run on market research agencies’ own servers that exist quite separately from the world outside.
Confirmit Horizons, of which B2B International is the launch customer, is perhaps the most significant of this new breed of data collection software. All the data collection, sample management and data storage is handled by secure, dedicated hardware housed in purpose-built data centres.
All this allows for the seamless and instantaneous integration of data collected from anywhere – whether it is online, face-to-face or via the telephone. Results and analysis can then be fed back to our clients live as the data is rolling in.
In the realm of qualitative research, just as social networking websites are arguably electronic projections of our personal lives into the online domain, so online focus groups and online communities now complement and enhance the face-to-face tools we once relied on.
In short, the cloud is important because it will affect all of our daily lives in so many ways in the future – Not just to play PacMan against your mates (or whatever it is the kids are playing nowadays).