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Focus Groups 101

Focus Groups 101

Focus Groups 101

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Have you ever wanted to delve into the psyche of your consumers? Find out what makes them tick or gets their attention? What motivates them to take action? What they think of your new website, online tool, or marketing strategy? A focus group can certainly uncover some of these mysteries and help you build a better and stronger brand or product.

What Is A Focus Group?

A focus group is a group of strategically selected consumers who share their thoughts and opinions on specific products or concepts. Such groups are fairly small, typically containing between six and ten participants chosen based on criteria such as demographics (i.e. age, gender, level of education, etc.), psychographics (i.e. behaviours, interests, consumption habits, etc.) and lifestyle (i.e. family status, marital status, employment status, etc.)

A trained moderator is required to run a focus group session. They have a list of questions to ask the group and moderation instructions to follow. It is common for focus group sessions to be live streamed to observers in a different room or to be conducted in rooms equipped with a one-way mirror and an adjacent observation room. These methods allow observers to watch sessions in action without interfering with the participants and potentially influencing the results.

When Should Focus Groups Be Used?

Focus groups are especially useful when quick consumer feedback is needed or when exploring different ideas before proceeding with a decision. They are particularly effective in a project’s concept test phase, when a product is still under development, and therefore is easier to modify based on the focus group’s feedback.

Participants’ reactions are observed and recorded to paint a picture of the target consumer’s response to the product. What did they do first? What did they ignore or skip? Did they prefer one item over another, or did they not have an opinion of them at all? Broader brand-related issues, like participants’ perception of the company after a product recall, can also be also discussed in a focus group session. The presence of other consumers contributes to creating a more comfortable environment where people can be open and honest about their opinion of a company or its product, which might not happen in a one-on-one interview.


What Are Some Advantages Of Focus Groups?

  • Focus groups provide extensive interactions between participants. Non-verbal communication can also be recorded as data.
  • Moderators guide the discussion as required, according to the needs and objectives of the research.
  • Sessions can be observed in real-time as the process unfolds.
  • Techniques such as word association, sentence completion and role playing can be used by moderators to get participants to open up and reveal hidden beliefs.

What Are Some Disadvantages Of Focus Groups?

  • Participants may be reluctant to discuss personal issues in a group setting – one-on-one interviews may be a better option in some cases.
  • Participants with stronger personalities may lead the discussion and skew the opinions of others. This is why it’s essential to have a good moderator guiding the session to avoid interference between group members.
  • Focus group research provides qualitative information about consumer opinions. If more quantitative data is desired, other options like, surveys, eye-tracking or AB Split testing should be considered.

    What Does It All Mean?

    Focus group research is a useful exploratory process that helps you get to know your consumers more intimately and better understand why they behave in certain ways. By knowing what your consumers want in a product and how they interact with it, you can better direct your marketing and create products that provide an optimal user experience. As an added benefit, focus group research is one of the quickest and most engaging types of market research!

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