A focus group is the ideal way to understand people’s perceptions about a particular topic, product or service. Used by business organizations, university students, medical professionals, market research experts, and legal and property professionals, the focus group is the best tool when the topic is suitable for open discussion, when detailed information is needed, and when time and money are not constraints for conducting the activity. It is also important that affordable transcription services are available to document the audio/video recording of the focus group session.
A recent article in DMN News points out that focus groups are still relevant in this era where artificial intelligence (AI) has become an important tool to glean information quickly. Business organizations across the world are using AI to gather data to boost their marketing efforts. The reason why AI has not replaced focus groups is that there are some things that only humans can do.
Here are some things that AI can do for marketing:
- Measures purchasing behavior: By sending an email, AI can quickly test messages in large groups. Thousands of responses can be collected in just a few hours.
- Tracks and gathers various data points of individual users: Machine Learning algorithms enable AI to understand their behavior, their interests and preferences. This allows marketers to recommend/suggest items that the consumer may like.
- Helps ‘learn’ user behavior with advertisements: This will allow the right ad targeting.
- Helps determine customer audience based on previous behaviors and current behaviors: AI allows a prediction to be applied on the estimated value or potential for attrition from a brand, says a report in http://bwdisrupt.businessworld.in.
- Prevents frauds and data breaches: Machine learning can analyze credit/debit card use patterns and so that security specialists can identify points of compromise in devices
- Web design: AI can test web design for thousands of web pages
However, there are certain things machine learning cannot do. It cannot answer certain questions. According to focus group specialists, while AI and big data are quantitative tools which can tell a marketer what has happened or is taking place, a focus group can explain why consumers prefer a particular product or service. AI cannot answer the question as to why consumers behave the way do. Only focus groups can reveal the answer. Machine learning cannot replace humans where empathy and emotional intelligence are required over understanding and over awareness.
AI is quantitative and focus groups are qualitative. Experts indicate that AI and focus groups each have their role. When it comes to handling the sheer mass of numbers, machine learning fills the bill. On the other hand, when it comes to analyzing the subjective need for a product, focus groups work best. Similarly, a focus group can help a business identify a problem with a web page, but testing the problem and its solution can be done using digital tools.
Mount Vernon Democrat recently reported on how a focus group helped glean perceptions about Posey County. The Posey County Economic Development Partnership conducted the focus group with the aim to attract new people to the county by finding out what they want. The EDP wanted to explore some of the amenities young people and others in their age group are interested in, while educating potential residents about what already has to offer.
In February 2017, the EDP partnered in conducting a focus group to gain an in-depth understanding of 25 to 44 year olds, the demographic which is crucial to economic developers. Conducting the focus group allowed them to understand the demographics’ positive and negative views about the county and their expectations and intentions. This, according to the EDP director, will help them work on improving Posey County.
Focus groups are still relevant because they are a good starting point to identify a basic idea. To conduct a focus group, first decide when to do it and where to do it. Decide the purpose and invite persons who can contribute appropriate and rich data to the subject. Note down the protocol or interview schedule and find a facilitator or moderator. Obtain ethics approval and/or informed consent. Record the discussion and arrange for audio transcription services.