Organizing a focus group is a multi-stage process that’s all about teamwork and commitment. Focus group research is a technique used to collect data through group interaction.
Focus groups possess a distinct advantage over other market research methods.
For both in-person and online focus groups, market research agencies should strive to meet several requirements and customer needs that will help secure reliable study outcomes. Focus group method help to explore, and focus group questions have friendly and conversational tone.
While these practices are often hard to pin down due to changing market dynamics, below is the list of the 6 top tips that will turn every focus group into a quality experience for everyone involved.
1. Know your “focus group” goals.
It seems almost trivial to say this, but knowing why we do, what we do is the best way to secure quality feedback and collect data from the participants of any focus group or research studies.
Having said that, practice shows it’s easier said than done. Study objectives can easily vary from general-skewing generic to complex-skewing baffling. Sometimes it comes to simple rewording, other times the task is more demanding—but it is always worth the effort.
Whatever the case may be, it is crucial to keep the researcher-client communication channel open from the onset of the project and for both parties to be ready to meet each other halfway. When there’s a will, there’s a way!
2. Prioritize quality over whims.
Paid market research means the client invests money to receive a certain type of feedback and obtain a certain set of data.
As important as the client’s needs are in the whole process, it is equally important for the market research company to stick to the proven formula of structuring and running group interviews.
Focus groups are very sensitive in that sense, and if this quality ever gets compromised, a bias is likely to emerge and potentially go unnoticed at the stage of data mining and reporting, thus rendering the whole study crippled. And once the new or improved product is out there, it is only a matter of time before this negligence backfires. To avoid this, client whims must be clearly separated from client needs and discussed thoroughly well in advance. It’s one thing to be willing to compromise on the ins and outs; it’s another thing to willingly jeopardize the quality of your research work.
3. The devil’s in the… screening
In life, the devil is supposedly in the details. In market research, the details are everything that happens backstage, and that means market screening. The job of the recruitment team is simple on paper: to weed out those participants that don’t meet the study objectives. It is critical when conducting focus groups. In reality, however, it is often a time-intensive and demanding task and it is important to acknowledge it as such. The risk of recruiting the wrong focus group participants is especially true of paid research studies.
Online focus groups, for their part, make users all the more likely to try and give researchers the kind of feedback they think is expected from them, rather than share their true thoughts and feelings, and there aren’t as many ways for researchers and moderators to verify how genuine the group members are in their reactions.
That’s why, today more than ever, the recruitment process is the warrant of quality feedback obtained in the course of user interviews. Focus groups and subsequent data collection/ analysis depend on that!
4. Create a welcoming atmosphere
It’s amazing how being kind opens so many doors in life, and the same holds true for user interviews. Focus groups have always been about making everyone feel welcome and appreciated. For in-person discussions, that used to be synonymous with creating a home-like atmosphere for participants. With online focus groups, the dynamics are a little different in that this welcome aspect is no longer a tangible thing. In other words, there are fewer guests and more partners. The discussions are now more direct, streamlined, and, in a way, more intimate as there’s no need for anyone to go out and leave their comfort zone anymore.
That’s why spotless etiquette and reassuring language, including body language, are some of the two things that will guide users through the discussion smoothly and organically.
5. Skilled moderation
As the very name suggests, focus groups are all about focus. But that’s not always easy when group members are strangers that are trying to get together in one room for group interviews. Focus group participants can easily go off topic or search for words, even if they’ve been paid to take a part in the study. Focus group research includes a moderator. Ideally, the moderator will be someone who knows how to conduct focus groups and can achieve study objectives without ever making it feel like homework to users. Their job, however, isn’t just about making everyone feel at ease and locacious, but also to do that without making too much of a detour from the agreed research pathway. The moderator may influence the group interactions, thus distorting results or findings. Skilled moderation is, and has always been, the cornerstone of successful online focus groups, paid or not
6. Quality equipment for online focus groups
In the post-pandemic world where virtually everything is digital, more and more research studies, and focus groups are being conducted online (An online focus group is very similar to an in-person focus group) than in person . Because of that, the technicalities that used to be waved aside are now, suddenly, decisive. Put simply, no amount of client compromise, researcher approach, foolproof recruitment or top-notch moderation can make up for a choppy Internet connection or unshareable slides during online focus groups. Research of any kind is bound to lose value under such circumstances. The right equipment helps the discussion proceed smoothly and ensures the recordings and user input meant for further processing remain intact, making group interviews easier and less stressful.
That’s why choosing reliable equipment and selecting reliable video conferencing platforms are the keys to success for market researchers (focus group members) in this highly digitized, post-pandemic era.
Of course, these six practices are just some of the must-haves for running successful user and group interviews. Focus groups are living organisms that require constant supervision and updating in order to yield the best results. And this is true for both in-person and online focus groups. Market research agencies have long been known for their adaptability in the face of changing market needs and emerging trends, which are unlikely to change in the coming years.