Online Focus Groups is a hot topic of discussion within the industry. Let’s discuss some of the main benefits and drawbacks to online focus groups as a research method.
Pro – Focus Groups Provide Increased Reach
Online Focus Group, by its very nature, lets your research pool to be anywhere in the world! This allows your business to screen your group according to whatever standards you want, without the limitations of a physical location!
Con – Moderator Limitations
Great moderators don’t just ask questions. They use the best, most proven techniques to energise, engage and interact with the group to gather the best possible data. Many of these techniques aren’t able to be implemented through text-only communication. Face to face communication is often the best way of conducting a focus group.
Pro – Convenience
Since travel time isn’t a concern to participants, focus groups can acquire the best, most qualified pool!
Con – Distractions
Conducting your research online usually doesn’t guarantee your participants aren’t multi-tasking or distracted during their sessions. Participants who are watching television, listening to the radio or arguing with their children/spouse could have drastically different responses than if they were in a distraction-free environment or had another way of guaranteeing their attention or observing their setting.
Pro – Cost Reduction
Eliminating the need for travel expenses, refreshments and other expenses related to a physical setting – cost is reduced quite a bit.
Con – Lack of Direct Participation
One role a focus group plays in market research is to provide an opportunity to interact with a new product, prototype or service directly. With online focus groups, this isn’t usually possible, however, not every focus group requires this interaction.
Pro – Direct Interaction With Consumer
In a focus group the moderators have the opportunity to ask the group why they feel a certain way about a brand. This can lead to some great realisations about a company’s brand. With scaled surveys, you can’t usually get the type of response that a skilled moderator can.
Con – One Shot Case Studies
Focus groups are essentially clusters of one shot case studies. Even though a focus group’s reaction can provide personal and invaluable data, each participant has their own story and reasons for their reaction to your brand and even as a whole, the focus group isn’t a great indicator of your market’s perception of a specific brand.
To sum up, online focus groups are certainly not going away, and it’s up to the market research community to ensure that we’re delivering the most accurate, useful data to our customers and clients. Consumers deserve the best possible experience and we’re here to try and deliver it!
Has your company held an online focus group before? What was your experience?
Zach Simmons is the Founder and president of Discuss.io. Zach has 20 years of experience building software. Prior to founding Discuss.io, he was the Technical Product Manager for Amazon Web Services (S3) where he ran the team that built the infrastructure that now powers a significant percentage of the modern Internet. Zach holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
An entrepreneurial leader, Zach is passionate about building disruptive and agile SaaS based market research startups as an alternative to traditional market research. Seeing a need for change within the Industry, Zach launched Discuss.io, bringing Market Research to the digital age.