What is a Focus Group?
A focus group consists of a group of individuals who are asked questions about their opinions and attitudes towards certain products, services, or concepts. These groups are a common qualitative market research technique used by companies or other entities and are intended to provide an understanding of consumer perception about certain topics. They are preferred over interviews, as they elicit group members to interact and influence each other.
Understanding Focus Groups
A focus group usually consists of 5-12 individuals who all possess certain characteristics pertaining to the topic of the group. A moderator or interviewer facilitates the discussion and creates an environment that promotes the communication of different perceptions and points of view. They usually last for about one to two hours, during which group members are usually asked five or six questions. The discussion is then carefully analyzed to provide insights as to how a product, service, or opportunity might be perceived by the group. The qualitative data is used to develop products, services, or opportunities that will meet customer requirements.
Types of Focus Groups
One group watches another group answer the questions posed by the moderator. By listening to what the other group thinks and says, the group that listens is able to facilitate more discussion and potentially draw different conclusions.
Two moderators are present – one which ensures the group session progresses smoothly and one that makes sure that the topics in question are all covered. Dual-moderator focus groups typically result in a more productive session.
There are two moderators who play devil’s advocate. The purpose of the dueling-moderator focus group is to facilitate new ideas by introducing new ways of thinking and varying viewpoints.
One or more of the participants in the group takes the lead as moderator. This is done to change the dynamics of the group and generate more varied responses.
5. Mini Focus Group
A focus group that consists of fewer participants – usually four or five – which creates a more intimate group.
6. Online Focus Group
Participants respond and share information through online means. Online focus groups are created to reach a broader range of participants.
Advantages of a Focus Group
- Focus groups are a cheaper means of obtaining information, as compared to individual interviews.
- Participants are able to listen to responses of other participants and “feed off each other.”
- The groups generally result in more data being gathered, as participants are given the opportunity to rebut each other.
- Compared to a quantitative survey, these groups are able to gather more information about perceptions, attitudes, and experiences.
Disadvantages of a Focus Group
- Group dynamics, such as groupthink, may inhibit discussion.
- The group may be difficult to manage and control, due to the number of participants.
- Shy participants or introverts may feel overpowered and intimidated by assertive participants. This can introduce bias and affect the end result.
- Analysis of data may be time-consuming and challenging.
- The group culture may intimidate or fail to energize participants, resulting in weaker data collection.
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