What is a Focus Group?

Focus groups are one of the significant data-gathering methods commonly used in marketing and social sciences.  It is organized the same way as interviews, but instead of one-on-one interactions, they usually involve five or more people who share similar socio-economic background and demographics. Researchers take notes or record the process with the consent of the respondents.

-        Focus groups provide researchers with an opportunity to identify the perceptions, experiences and opinions of a group of people on specific topics. Even though the participants come from similar social classes, focus group discussions help to shed light on different perspectives.

-         Researchers carefully select all participants in these groups to ensure they represent the best possible target audience.

-        The interactive nature of these groups makes it possible to obtain information from several people simultaneously rather than asking questions one by one.  It is important to highlight that the participants may influence each other’s thoughts while getting into a discussion or just by observing the others.

-        Researchers or organizers brief the group about the topics that are the major discussion points, and participants are free to express their feelings. Questions are open-ended and enable researchers to get deeper insights into the subject.

-         Moderators should encourage participation and prevent any bias that can affect the outcome. However, there should be no pressure on participants to answer certain questions.

While using this method, the main issue faced by researchers is a potential “groupthink.” Although some research projects look for the consensus, biased opinion of a one group member can sway others from their beliefs and put the reliability of the research under question.

In market research, focus groups are used to explore the opinions about products and services. It is especially useful in getting feedback in the early stages of product development and also provides details on what people think of the new product. It grants companies a chance to change their strategies on certain products, improve the quality and meet the market demand.

Online focus groups

Focus groups typically require in-person attendance, but modern technologies make it possible to get participants from any location with internet access. It is cheaper and only requires online software. There is no question that people are more open to discussing sensitive topics through online platforms compared with a traditional method. On the flip side, we may have difficulty organizing focus groups if the research requires tasting, touching, or smelling of a given product.

Recording and transcribing the session

One of the best ways to analyze the data obtained from focus groups is to record the entire process and transcribe it. You may miss key points while taking notes, but the transcript contains all the information shared in the discussions. Automatic transcription software converts the audio/video file into a text in a few minutes and allows you to edit and search the transcript.