Focus groups are a time-tested qualitative research method used by businesses to gather information about customers’ specific wants, needs and anxieties. This market research tool combined with focus group transcription helps companies develop new products and improve on their existing ones. Today, the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic are driving the need for remote focus groups. In a remote focus group, participants interact on a video call and the moderator poses the questions and leads the discussion.
While focus groups allow participants to openly express their opinions and share their views with each other, they are not without drawbacks. One concern is ‘groupthink’ – the tendency of influential members to dominate the conversation, keeping others from expressing their opinion or even affecting the opinion. This can skew the results. COVID-19 has added to this challenge as focus groups have to be conducted virtually, bringing in technological problems like poor Wi-Fi connectivity and participants’ unfamiliarity with the platform used to conduct the event (www.cmswire.com). Given these challenges, let’s see how remote focus group can be conducted successfully:
- Select the Suitable Method – Data can be collected via a synchronous multi-person video conference or asynchronous interview format. Synchronous formats include a live audio conference, computer-assisted conference and video conference. Feedback can be collected via messaging or chat, but it can be challenging to track all the chat messages, ensure that everyone’s opinion is heard and that the information is collected properly. A well-thought-out, organized agenda, a note-taker, and a facilitator are necessary for the multi-person video conference to succeed.
In the asynchronous interview format, the participants can be sent pre-established or pre-recorded questions via video. This means that the meeting is not conducted live. focus group participants are sent the recorded video through an online portal and they can complete at their convenience. This method may be more convenient for the participants, allow them to stay focused, and save time. However, this method can be less effective as it is less engaging.
- Plan: Careful preplanning is crucial to overcome the potential challenges of remote focus groups. First, choose suitable participants and limit the number of participants to 4-5. This will allow each person to express their opinion freely. One advantage of the remote focus group is that you can choose participants from a wider geographic area. Once you have chosen the participants, have them sign an online confidentiality agreement ahead of the event. Each person should agree by voice and their answer should be recorded. Next, pay the incentives using an appropriate method. When planning the session, fix a time limit of around 60-90 minutes, recommends Sutherland Labs.
- Choose the Appropriate Platform for Face-to-Face Interaction: There are many video conferencing tools out there such as GoToMeeting, AdobeConnect, WebEx, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and ClickMeeting. With such platforms, all participants can attend the discussion by simply clicking on a link. Many of these tools come with many features that can take focus groups to the next level: recording and editing tools that make data analysis easy, screen-sharing capabilities that moderators can use to display materials and gauge participants’ response, instant access across a wide range of devices, full HD video and audio capability, collaboration features such as co-annotation and whiteboarding, attention indicator and more.
- Use Collaborative Tools: Brainstorming is often used with focus groups. Brainstorming aims to generate new, inspiring, invigorating ideas for the challenge at hand. Whimsical, Miro and Mural are collaborative tools for collective brainstorm activities. Participants can write down ideas on virtual post-it notes, or keep track of ideas and solutions generated during the session. The moderator can send participants a link to a visual workplace which will allow them to collaborate simultaneously or observe the moderator using the virtual whiteboard (www.sutherlandlabs.com).
While focus groups are still in vogue, a CMS Wire article published last year says that collecting and studying behavioral data is more important. The key to gaining a real understanding of what customer are doing on their website, their store or other channels and the reason for their actions. According to the article, businesses should observe customers in their own environment to understand their behavior which will help them create products and services that can best meet their needs.
Audio transcription agencies play a key role in helping businesses document the interactions of focus groups for data analysis. Focus group transcription by an experienced company will ensure well-formatted, accurate documentation of the discussion.