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All you need to know about conducting focus group research

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What is a focus group?

A focus group includes a limited group of participants that are carefully selected for contributing to open discussions needed for research. The hosting company chooses participants that help them study the larger population size they’re intending to target.
This involves taking a look at the latest products, new feature updates, or other enhancements for generalizing the reactions of the entire population. The focus group research involves a moderator for ensuring legitimate results and minimizing bias in the open discussions.

The name “Focus Group” was given by marketing & psychological expert Ernest Dichter in 1991. It involved meetings conducted with a small group of participants with an aim of discussion.

  • A focus group is an indispensable part of qualitative research. It includes a group of 6-10 people, particularly 8, that sit together to discuss a topic, like a new product. The group is known to share their ideas, feedback, insights, as well as opinions related to the specific topic.
  • Participants can share their ideas openly and can convince other participants of their opinions as well.
  • The role of the mediator is to take notes on the discussion and the feedback shared by the participants.
  • The results of your research are dependent on your group members, so it’s important to choose the right group members.

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What are the best practices for focus group research?

To create a focus group for market research, here are the steps that you need to follow:

  • Start with a clear and concise plan for your group members.  Before you approach participants to join the focus group, it’s important to ensure that the goals of your group are clear enough. For instance, does the researcher aim to discuss a new product or the performance of ongoing marketing campaigns? Leverage a written explanation for clarifying the intended objective to your members.
  • Once you have a plan, start writing survey questions for your focus group. It’s important to ensure that questions well align with your research objective as well as complement each other. Always begin the discussion with the most crucial issues and include the least important ones at the end. To make your research more effective, you should ask open-ended questions.
  • Schedule your discussion beforehand. Make sure the members are aware of the place, time & duration of the discussion in advance. This lets them plan their schedule accordingly.
  • A focus group can be hosted either in person or using an online community. A physical location is used for conducting the discussion in person. Also, the venue for an in-person discussion needs amenities like washrooms and refreshments, to make participants feel comfortable. Whereas in the case of online focus groups, participants connect virtually using an online discussion platform. It’s essential to send invitations as well as reminders for your online discussion multiple times to help participants remember it.
  • Don’t forget to create informational brochures and detailed forum posts that include a welcome note, the agenda, and the overall rules of your meeting.  

What are the main components of a focus group?

Participants: A foundational step in creating a focus group is the selection process of participants. The criteria for participant selection need to be based on their knowledge related to the subject. In case you find it difficult to select members and need help with it, you can seek help from a research-based organization too!

Moderator: The moderator is responsible for conducting the focus group with full confidence and leading participants through the series of questions. A moderator needs to stay impartial throughout the focus group survey. Being a researcher, you have the authority to become a moderator, although you need to remain objective.

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What are the types of focus groups?

  • Dual-moderator focus group: This focus group includes two moderators for its functioning. While one moderator is responsible for ensuring smooth execution, the other one keeps a check on the discussion of every question.
  • Mini focus group: This focus group is small in size and restricts its participants to 4-5 only.

  • Two-way focus group: In a two-way focus group, there are 2 different groups discussing a topic at different times. While the first group conducts the study, the second group is known to observe the discussion. After observing the session, the second group performs their conversation at the end. By gaining effective insights from the first discussion, the second group can delve deeper into the topic and offer more intrinsic feedback.

  • Participant-moderated focus group: In this focus group, a participant (or more than one participant) can provisionally play the role of a moderator.

  • Client-involvement focus group: This focus group includes clients as its members. This group can be used when a client asks you to conduct a focus group and invite them.

  • Online focus group: These focus groups use online mediums for gathering feedback and opinions of the members. An online focus panel includes 3 different categories of people which involve: observer, moderator, as well as respondent.

How to conduct focus group research effectively?

Focus Group Research
  • Recruit your participants wisely
    Recruiting participants is one of the most essential steps in the process of conducting focus group research. A researcher needs to ensure that the selected members should have adequate knowledge about the topic so they can add value to the conversation.
  • Select a right moderator
    By seamlessly understanding the topic of discussion, your moderator needs to possess the following capabilities:
    • Ensuring contribution from all existing members of the focus group.
    • Allowing every group member to speak by regulating the dominant ones.
    • Motivating distracted and less attentive group members through supportive language.
    • Taking the decision to continue or end a discussion if it gets out of track or becomes too heated.
  • Don’t forget to record the meeting
    Once you conduct a focus group, it is very important to record the meetings or sessions for future purposes. A researcher has the authority to record a meeting through either video or audio, however, getting consent from the participants is essential.
  • Writing clear guidelines is key
    Before your session begins, jotting down clear guidelines for your session is essential. This involves writing key questions, group members’ expectations, ways of session recording, and result sharing methods. You need to share instructions in advance with your participants with a request to comply with them.
  • Conduct focus group session and create a report
    After participants gain a clear understanding of their role, the moderator should lead the focus group discussion. You can gather quantitative data from the event by simply asking members to fill out a feedback form. Using this data, you can easily generate reports based on the overall findings.
  • Develop a plan of action
    The generated report can be shared with stakeholders or decision-makers in your company. This plays a pivotal role in creating actionable plans for improving products or services as per the feedback shared by the members of the focus group.

What are the advantages of using a focus group?

  • A focus group is known to greatly complement online surveys as well as online polls. A focus group lets you understand why your customer feels a particular way about your product, and a survey helps you solicit supporting feedback in huge numbers.

  • With quick access to members’ opinions, a focus group streamlines the process of data collection and analysis in market research.

  • A focus group comes with utmost flexibility which makes it easy to adapt to the members’ needs.

  • Regular discussions can be easily conducted which eliminates the risk of inaccurate results arising due to market outlooks.

  • A focus group is a perfect source to uncover the true feelings of your intended target audience.

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