One chief drawback of technology is that it is slowly eroding away the time we spend interacting face to face. According to a recent Pew Research survey, nearly 70 percent of Americans use technology and/or social media to connect with one another and share information. However, one market research tool is bucking the trend – the focus group.
The chief differentiator between in-person focus groups and other market research techniques is the level of direct human interaction. There is simply no substitute for sitting face-to-face in a room, phones and smart devices put away, and having a real discussion.
It facilitates the researcher’s ability to guide and probe in-depth as necessary to uncover insights that might otherwise be overlooked.
Because focus group research requires a significant investment of time and money per participant, recruitment protocols should be held to the highest standard. The screening process must be designed to filter out unsuitable and/or “professional” respondents.
Ultimately, the quality of the participants is reflected in a correspondingly high quality of data obtained from the focus group.
There is a general perception that an in-person focus group is significantly more expensive than its alternatives. However, the true return-on-investment of any market research lies in the value of the insights that are gleaned from the exercise. While valuable insights can be generated by other forms of market research, in-person focus groups allow analysts to delve more deeply into the attitudes, behaviors, and emotions around why people feel the way that they do.
A resourceful moderator will find creative ways to get in-depth responses.
Human interaction occurs at far more than just surface level; there are countless non-verbal signals during a conversation that add dimension and context to what is said. A focus group lets the moderator pick up on not just answers to questions but also to pursue follow-up queries based on clues from body language, tone of voice, and pace.
Focus groups allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the decisions customers make and the rationale behind them.
Another important aspect of focus groups comes from the interaction between participants. For example, if the goal of a study is to explore how different generations might react to a new product, the dynamics of a multi-generational focus group could yield truly insightful data. Deeper insights and understanding into the similarities and differences of the generations may emerge through these personal interactions.
Don’t underestimate the importance of communicating with different age groups, including children, teens, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Gen-Z.
Despite recent technical advances in market research, in-person focus groups continue to provide invaluable insights into new product innovation, communications, branding, and so much more.