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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Chua

How Focus Groups can Benefit Your Market Research

Focus Groups

Focus groups are a method marketers use to get first-hand insight into the true opinion of (potential) customers on a product or service. About six to ten people sit down in a room with a moderator to answer a series of marketing questions.

The participants are encouraged to discuss each other’s answers so the researcher can have a deeper look into the psychology of it all. A free-flowing discussion brings out aspects of customers’ mindsets even they might not be consciously aware of.

How do focus groups work?

Focus groups are about pure research. It’s only afterwards that you decide what to do with the data collected.

The moderator guides the discussion, and while the attempt is to mimic real-life conversation, an emphasis is placed on creating a non-heated, comfortable debate.

Topics have to flow naturally from one to another, and all participants should get to contribute.

There is no pressure to arrive at a conclusion or find a plan of action. The only focus is to see how people think and what kind of arguments make them consider the opposite view.

The researcher gets information from the tone and body language as well. If a person says they like chocolate, the researcher can determine how deep their love is on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s direct, raw information on the opinions of a diverse demographic.

Why rely on the fickle mindset of people when easy, quantitative numbers and stats are available readily for any demographic now? Because numbers can’t tell you the why of it. You can get people who love milk chocolate over dark chocolate, but you can’t know whether it’s because most people have a sweet tooth or people were just fed milk chocolate too much as a kid and never got the opportunity to try anything else.

Maybe these people can’t afford dark chocolate even if they like it more. It’s a deeper look into the circumstances of a customer, thus making focus groups extremely important qualitative data.

Online vs In-Person Focus Group

While focus groups used to be a strictly in-person affair, technological advancement had led to moderated discussions over Zoom calls too.

It’s less restrictive geographically. So, if your brand markets internationally, you can have a peek into the mindset of the local people. The younger generation, who always make up a chunk of any market, tend to be more active here.

Yet, you might have to deal with sudden internet lag, people missing out on parts of discussion due to freezing, and all kinds of technical issues while the session is in progress. Once the free-flowing atmosphere is gone, it can be hard to get back into the groove.

Determining expression over Zoom call is also hard. Not to mention lots of people become stilted with the constant reminder of a camera on their person.

In some ways, you can think of Reddit and Twitter discussion threads as part of focus group research. Except they don’t have moderators, and it can develop into an argument easily. However, it does give you insights into what people think, at least in text.

In-person focus groups tend to have a warmer atmosphere. Discussions are more rapid-fire due to close contact with the other participants. It is limited to a region as many people can’t afford to travel far.

Benefits of Focus Group

You find the benefit of the focus group research after the discussion is over. The raw data is turned into a presentation that has the following content:

  • Purpose of the study.

  • Profile of participants, from their age, geographic location to their psychological background.

  • Summary.

  • Key beliefs.

  • Differences in opinion between certain demographics or similarities between completely different demographics.

  • A plan of action on what can be done with the data gathered.

The study helps you find fundamental faults in your product or services. It gives insight into whether the customers feel your brand lives up to its vision and mission statement. You have real-world insight into what you can do to improve the product for a customer.

The free discussion without any kind of pressure also fosters creativity among the respondents. Sometimes, the solution to an issue with a product you’re looking for can occur while participants are discussing what would have made them like the product if certain things were different.

You get a look into the steps that led a customer to buy a product. New ideas are presented during the discussion, as customers gain insight into not only themselves but also into their peers.

Focus groups are also a good way to challenge long-held beliefs and find out if some customer myths were true at all.

While attempts are made to find the most diverse customer range for focus groups, the discussions and data still might not represent the whole community. While you should use the data as a touchpoint, don’t make it the entire focus.

When You Should Not Have a Focus Group

Not every product launch preparation period calls for a focus group.

  • If you want to conduct a focus group simply to save money, it’s not always the case. While focus groups can be cheaper than lots of methodologies, it takes considerable effort to gather everyone and draw up the report with so many researchers working on it. If the discussion is conducted without considerable preparation, the ultimate cost-to-effectiveness ratio is low.

  • If you want data on a large population, you’re better off with surveys than focus groups. While they do represent a part of the potential customer base, they don’t speak for everyone. If you aren’t focusing on a niche, smaller market but a larger one, focus group data might not be of much use.

  • You shouldn’t use focus group results for budgetary or huge marketing decisions either. Quantitative data is still the number one resource in this case, though mixing quality and quantitative data is the best method.

Final Thoughts

Conducting a focus group session requires careful planning, followed by a rigorous analysis of the data gathered. A proper marketing consultancy could be of great use in this regard.


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