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Survey Vs Focus Group

Market research 04 12
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Table of Contents

Focus Group

To gather information about customer’s needs, expectations, habits, and preferences companies have always used Market Research. Market Research includes different methods to gain insight and study the customers. It helps increase the knowledge about what customers prefer and why. All in all, it answers questions that help an organization make a business decision for success.

Two of the methods of Market Research that we will discuss are Surveys and Focus groups.

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Characteristics of Focus Groups:

Exploratory: The aim of conducting a Focus Group is to obtain exploratory data from the consumers. From this group interaction, you not only learn what the consumers think about your company but also the “why” and “how” of their thought process.

Open Discussion: Because of the close interaction you can deep dive into exploring a topic and stir the conversation however you want. You receive firsthand information and get to experience consumer’s emotions and attitudes toward your company.


Expensive: Focus groups can be expensive. You have to spend on renting the facility where you conduct the focus group and compensate for participation. You also have to travel to multiple locations causing travel expenses.

Biased: Outspoken people often lead a conversation. Your focus group may fall victim to it if there is an outspoken person involved. They may influence others’ opinions which will result in skewed or biased results. Other participants may not feel comfortable providing their honest opinion anymore.

Lack of Participation: Lack of anonymity may give you trouble to recruit participants for the focus groups. People may not want to speak freely with their identity out in the open.

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Survey uses a questionnaire to gather information from the customers. Classified as quantitative research, survey results are analyzed to make informative decisions. You can ask questions about any topic you want to gain data on. It can be short or long in length depending on the purpose of the survey.

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Characteristics of Survey:

Different Method of Survey: Surveys can be conducted via interviews, face-to-face, or by phone. You can also conduct online surveys, send emails, SMS, or upload surveys on websites/ social media.

Survey Question: Questions can be asked in the form of multiple-choice, open-ended, and rating scales. Your questions need to be consistent with the purpose of the survey. So, make sure the questions are meaningful.

Time and Cost-effective: Surveys especially online surveys are cost and time-effective. The response rate is high as well. Moreover, it is easy to design a survey question with all the tools available on the internet.

Confidentiality: You can conduct a survey where you keep the respondent’s identity confidential. This often encourages respondents to provide their honest opinion. So, you will gather different perspectives and outlooks.


Difficulty to collect data: It may be difficult to recruit participants for surveys like interviews or email/SMS surveys, if you don’t have information about your customers.

Also, following up with the survey requires conducting another research, which involves more effort and work.

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Differences between Survey and Focus Groups

Focus group

  • Heterogeneous Perception:

For a Focus group, you need to select a homogenous group, that is, people who share common interests. The aim is to create a balance within the group so that everyone feels comfortable discussing the topic. A homogenous group with heterogeneous opinions and perspectives can help you collect diverse data.

In a focus group, you don’t select participants randomly. Moreover, there is no need to generalize arguments.

  • Somewhat Unreliable Data:

Focus groups can lead you to biased results. While discussing in a group people may change their opinion after being influenced by someone’s opinion. Shy people may not openly share their thoughts, while people who come from different social statuses may feel inferior to express their opinions. Some people may even take control of the discussion and stir people’s opinions in one direction.

Also, interviewers may influence the conversation and lead to biased answers. They may ask leading questions or stir them in different ways that may result in biased opinions. This makes focus groups somewhat unreliable.

  • Difficulty in Recording Data:

It may also be difficult to record the entire session. People talking over each other can ruin the recording making it hard to understand. Participants who speak low may be overpowered by loud voices. You may not be able to capture the opinions of the minority because the opinions of the majority may end up becoming the ultimate result.

  • Open complex discussion:

Focus group opens up in-depth discussion. You can discuss any complex topics which cannot be addressed in surveys. Participants have the chance to openly provide their views and discuss them with other participants.



  • Non-respondent error:

For surveys, participants are randomly selected to form a large sample. The aim is to generalize the result so that it represents the entire population.

A survey can fall victim to non-sampling error, that is, the presence of non-respondents. When people fail to answer the survey you end up with a smaller sample. This results in a sample being not adequate enough to represent the population.

  • Somewhat Reliable data:

In surveys, you cannot influence the opinions of the respondents. You cannot interact with them and because everyone receives the same questions there is less chance of biased answers.

However, respondents may skip the question or drop the survey if they find the questions confusing. They may get confused which won’t give you reliable answers. But because surveys use close-ended questions the answers may be more reliable.

No third party can influence the answers also, because of the close-ended questions, surveys lead to more reliable data.

  • Easy to Record data:

Surveys collect interpretative data. You can easily collect quantifiable data through a rating scale which makes it easy to analyze and translate into business strategy.

For surveys, you need to make sure that the questions are designed in a way that is not complex. The questions need to be simple and easy to understand. Moreover, the options for answers also need to be appropriate and must align with the question.

  • No Deep Conversation:

The data you collect from surveys may be superficial because of the limited number of questions you can ask. Even when you include open-ended questions, you cannot obtain deep knowledge about customer’s feelings and opinions.

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Develop Survey and Focus Group Research

To develop Survey and Focus Group research, you need to follow similar steps.

Setting goals: The most important step in any market research is to be well aware of what you want to achieve at the end of the research. Your goal defines how you structure your research. What you hope to get out of the research is what you need to ask the audience.

Audience: Whom do you want to include in your research? You need to think about the demographic factors and decide who should be your target market. Do you want participants who are familiar with your brand or do you want to explore a new audience? Figure out your intention and that way you can figure out your target market.

Discussion Script for Focus Group: As a moderator of the focus group you need to have a script that can help you guide the meeting. You need to know what questions to ask and what topics to stir. You need to be prepared to answer questions asked by the participants.

Questionnaire for Survey: For Surveys, you need to design questions that are simple, easy to understand, and suitable for the survey purpose. The questions cannot be double-barreled or complicated. You should not use difficult words that most respondents may not be familiar with.

Incentive: People may not find it worth their time to participate in your research. Offering incentives or rewards is a great way to encourage people to participate in the research. This way they will be motivated to help you with your research.


If you want to have a deep conversation with your customers on complex topics you should conduct a Focus Group. Discussing topics with customers may help you live through their experience as a customer from a new perspective.

When you want to research a wide audience of diverse backgrounds, you may want to conduct Survey. This way you can ask exactly what you want to know and reach a broad set of customers. The representative data can help you understand what the entire target market expects and needs.

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