Focus groups surveys are rapidly gaining popularity as a research tool. They are yet another survey tool that companies can use to gauge opinions and perceptions toward a product, service, or advertisement.
Focus groups surveys are especially helpful to gather initial data. For instance, they can help crystallize the direction of a new product idea or service concept. Or, they can be used to gain new insight into an area by obtaining multiple views or examining it "outside the box". In this way, focus groups surveys help to add some "art" to market research "science".
What is a Focus Group?
A focus group assembles a collection of individuals in an interactive setting. Questions are asked of respondents, and participants are free to discuss topics with other group members. Because of this interaction, focus groups can produce unique insight and information. By listening to others vocalize their thoughts on a particular topic, it can stimulate ideas, memories, or life-experiences from group members.
Although a moderator facilitates the session, the session is typically unstructured to allow participants to interact and give their opinions in a natural way. Survey software is a helpful resource to construct and deliver focus group questions.
Uses of Focus Groups
As a commonly used marketing survey tool, focus groups allow companies to test new products, new packaging, or even a new name before it is made available to the public-at-large. This can help prevent marketing blunders before they occur. Non-verbal behavioral clues can be collected in addition to verbal feedback during a focus group session.
But marketing is not the only beneficial use of focus groups surveys. They are also being used in social sciences and behavioral settings. For instance, focus groups have been used in the area of workplace bullying. In a focus group setting, victims may feel more comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings as toward bullying at work.
Another type -- two-way focus groups -- provide a unique twist on the focus groups surveys concept: Here two groups are formed. However, one watches while the other participates in a hands-on experiment or discussion.
With the explosion of technology, online focus groups -- where participants are gathered online in an group -- are becoming a popular survey tool being used more by companies for its convenience and easy access. An even more technologically modern use is videoconferencing focus groups, where participants use web cams to interact and participate in a discussion.
There are some caveats with focus groups, however. The focus group moderator must ensure that no one participant dominates the conversation. Every person in the group must be given the opportunity to form and express their opinion. To combat this limitation, moderators should be experienced and trained on how to handle different personalities in a group-interactive setting. Questions built by online survey software also give moderators a "script" to follow as the focus group session transpires.
That said, when run by an experienced and trained moderator, focus groups surveys are a proven, time-tested qualitative market research tool, which has the ability to be applied to a broad range of research issues.