What is an online focus group?

An online focus group is a method of data collection that enables the researcher to host a discussion between a number of respondents through an online platform. B2B International has the ability to host and moderate focus groups through our online qualitative package.


When would you use an online focus group?

As a method of qualitative data collection, a focus group – online or offline – is suitable when the researcher needs to obtain a rich insight. This might be in order to delve deeper into issues previously identified through a quantitative study, to test products, concepts or marketing materials, or to develop an initial picture of a target audience that is not yet understood.

The purpose of a focus group is to generate a discussion between a number of participants about a particular research topic. Unlike one-to-one interviews, focus groups allow members of a group to interact with and influence each other. While focus groups are traditionally carried out face-to-face, there are a number of benefits to taking this research online.

Online Focus Groups


Benefits of conducting research through online focus groups

  • Time – where respondents might feel unable to give up two hours of their afternoon to attend a focus group, the advantage of hosting them online is that the discussion is spread over a longer period of time, with the respondent able to “dip in” and participate at times convenient to them
  • Geography – online groups are useful when the target population is spread over a wide geographical area and it would not be feasible for them to travel to a set location for a focus group
  • Flexibility – respondents can access online focus groups on computers or smartphones, and can answer questions at a time that suits them. For the moderator, the ability to tweak and tailor the line of questioning throughout the fieldwork period as required is a key benefit
  • Media – an online platform gives respondents the ability to upload and share media such as photographs, screen recordings and direct feedback to camera. The respondent can also share media with the participants – for example, marketing material that they would like to gather feedback about

The role of the moderator

As with offline focus groups, the role of the moderator is crucial. The core questions and topics for discussion should, as always, be decided prior to the group being held. Our online qualitative platform allows us to set a range of questions or tasks, to be revealed at a particular time during the group.

The role of the moderator is firstly to encourage respondents to answer the questions that are put to them, then secondly to follow-up with their responses and ask probing questions to develop a richer understanding: “What makes you think that?”, “What do you like about that?”, “What impact would that have on you?”
It is important to keep the respondents engaged and on the right topic throughout the fieldwork period – an effective online moderator needs to be very closely involved throughout the entire group to ensure this happens.

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