Focus Groups

Focus groups present a unique opportunity to a group of end-users to discuss their needs, objectives, and perceptions in an interactive environment. The opinions and statements of the respondents enable one to derive strategic information and draw interesting conclusions.


They Can Measure Potential End-User Information

A focus group is a first-rate method to gauge the reaction of customers to the various strategies implemented by one's company against its competitors. Some potential measurement applications are:

  • Provides new ideas for the improvement of existing products and new product concepts
  • Identifies the product-performance requirements of the end-user and other needs that are not being met by one's competitors or one's own company
  • Provides insights on the strategies and positions of one's competitors
  • Measures the reaction of customers to price, message, color, and design
  • Identifies problems in product design


The design of the focus group is an important element in its eventual success. The proper selection of participants, moderator, questions, and objectives of the group is the key to success.


Conducting a Focus Group

The seven basic steps for conducting a focus group are:

  1. Determine research objectives
  2. Develop a discussion format
  3. Choose and screen participants
  4. Select a moderator
  5. Convene the focus group meeting
  6. Collect and analyze data
  7. Make a presentation

To improve the effectiveness of the focus group, a special facility, consisting of a meeting room with a round or oval table to enhance communication among the respondents, should be used. Typically, it will also have a full line of audio/visual equipment.


Desirable Qualities of Moderators

The moderator is paramount to the efficacy of focus group interviews. The moderator must lead the discussion and ensure that all the predetermined objectives of the interview are met, while making sure that no personal bias affects the course of the interview. Some of the desirable qualities of a moderator are:

  • Must be well-informed in the nuances of the industry being discussed for a better understanding of the discussion.
  • Must be able to encourage members of the group to discuss concepts in greater detail.
  • Must be able to encourage a debate among the respondents to generate deeper discussions. However, she/he must not allow the interview to degenerate into an argument.
  • Must encourage the involvement of all the members in the group.
  • Must exhibit significant degrees of empathy with the group, while maintaining control over the interviews.
  • Must be adaptable. The moderator should commit the session's questionnaire to memory and allow the session to flow smoothly without enforcing an arbitrary question order.



Advantages/Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Opinions or ideas of individual group members can be taken and refined by the group, resulting in more accurate information.
  • A "snowballing" effect can occur, causing the ideas of individual members of the group to be passed around the group, gathering both momentum and detail.
  • Focus group interviews are generally more interesting to the respondent than individual interviews. As a result, answers are likely to be longer and more revealing.
  • As the questions of the moderator are directed at a group rather than individuals, the degree of spontaneity of resultant answers is often greater in a focus group interview.


Disadvantages

  • Structuring a random sample is a complicated task. The responses of the participants in the interview are likely to be different from the responses of those that did not participate. Therefore, non-response can be a serious problem.
  • Focus groups are generally costlier than other end-user interview alternatives.
  • The moderator can introduce significant biases into the proceedings, should she/he fail to ask certain questions or delve deeply into specific areas.
  • Skilled moderators are difficult to find, and when their services are available, they are often expensive.

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