Face-to-face focus groups are perhaps one of the most well-known qualitative data collection methods where a skilled moderator facilitates a discussion on a particular topic with between 6 and 8 respondents, over a set period of time, typically 90 minutes.
Focus groups are a particularly useful data collection method in studies such as concept / advertising testing, proposition development and also to gather a more general understanding of the market and their feelings, motivators and views.
But since focus groups first came to use in the 1920s and 30s the world has moved on and a range of new research methods have been introduced, and quite rightly clients ask the question whether focus groups are still relevant. As an advocate of both online and offline qualitative methods, here are five reasons why face-to-face focus groups are still relevant today.
Quite simply, the value of hearing customer comments in the flesh is incredibly powerful, particularly when viewed live by clients. One of the biggest challenges that can be faced by client organisations is bringing customers to life, spending 90 minutes hearing what they have to say is a great way to do this.
A skilled moderator is able to create a group dynamic where participants are encouraged to build on each other’s ideas, which is useful for developing concepts and ideas and perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls to alternatives such as online groups and discussion boards.
There is the ability to see instant emotional reactions, particularly when discussing new concepts and propositions but also very useful to understand where there is agreement and disagreement amongst the group to steer the next steps of the discussion. Linked to the previous point, this is one of the biggest downfalls to alternative methods.
There is the opportunity to get to the heart of the issue, the moderator is able to probe to understand the participants point of view, particularly on complex issues which are often harder to unpick over the telephone and through asynchronous online groups. Furthermore, these views can also be debated and discussed within the group itself.
Compared to a project that involves a programme of telephone interviews, focus groups can provide feedback from a number of individuals in a relatively short period of time. Which means that client teams can begin to use the valuable feedback prior to the final report, especially useful for ad testing research.
Whilst focus groups are not perfect for various reasons including dominant participants, ‘group think’ and a limited geographical reach they do continue to be a relevant and incredibly useful data collection technique in the b2b world.