The origin of the focus group can be traced back to the 1940s. Robert K. Merton, a young social scientist in Columbia University’s U.S. Bureau of Applied Social Research, used a “focused interview” technique to assess the impact of mass communication on Americans during World War II. This research tool, along with focus group transcription, gradually evolved into the preferred choice for consumer product research. With the rise of social media and artificial intelligence for gathering consumer insights, one question being asked is: do focus groups have a role in the digital world?
Focus Groups growing in the Age of Big Data
The answer is yes. According to a 2019 Vox report, brands are not ready to give up on the focus group even in the age of big data. Trade group ESOMAR reported that in 2017, $2.2 billion worldwide was spent on conducting focus groups, with $809 million of that coming from the US.
Businesses use focus groups as a market research strategy to gain qualitative information about a product or service via an interaction of individuals led by a moderator. The internet, social media, digital technologies, video and graphics have dramatically changed the way marketers interact within their teams and how they use these elements to manage their brand, products and services.
Good marketing depends on building customer brand loyalty and consumer marketing research is needed to find out what customers really want. Focus groups are well-suited to gather information about what they bought or didn’t, why, where it is used, how, and when (www.business2business.com). The reason why focus groups continue to be popular in the digital world is that they allow marketers to achieve this efficiently, with greater speed, creativity, flexibility and collaboration than many other marketing research methods.
Benefits of Online Focus Groups
Today, many companies are using digital or online focus groups as they offer many advantages over traditional in-person groups and interviews. The benefits of digital focus groups include:
- Are cost-effective and save time and travel costs – you don’t need to bring participants to a physical venue
- Overcome geographical barriers and allow for a larger, more diverse audience or sample size
- The ability to be anonymous can provide better, more honest insights – participants tend to speak freely and are less influenced by peer opinion
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be implemented to identify the best responses that represent the group and reveal crucial data points that inform business decisions (www.remesh.ai)
Today’s digital focus groups use multiple means to collect additional data. These include video interviews or asynchronous interviews targeting individuals or a Google Hangout where multiple focus group members interact with each other and the moderator; online surveys to provide insights into particular products, campaigns, and brand sentiment; online forums where groups of people review videos and pdfs and interact with each other, and social media monitoring – which is now referred to as the “new focus group”.
How to Get the Most out of Focus Groups
Focus groups allow businesses to better understand consumers’ thoughts and views. To get the most out of focus groups, they have to be used in the right context. Situations where focus groups will work best, according to www.business2community.com include:
- To investigate the customer’s buying journey and other complex processes
- To look into the triggers underlying consumption decisions or buying behavior
- To evaluate a new product or people’s opinion about a proposed product or service
- To explore the reasons for satisfaction
- To delve into brand and service quality perception
- To encourage participants to generate new ideas or their own solutions to address a problem or scenario
While interviews help you understand a few individual perspectives, focus groups allow you to collect more information through group interactions. Focus groups can also be used to supplement a survey or instead of it to get more information about the why or how.
Transcribing the audio from your focus group or interview is necessary to analyze the information. Based on your needs, digital transcription agencies can provide complete, time-stamped transcripts that capture as much detail as possible.