In many cases, a physical item, a prototype of a product, or a concept is presented to the group. Then potential features, benefits or attributes, marketing messages or ads, or a mockup of a proposed website can be discussed. Projectors, flip charts and whiteboards are also available to provide stimuli for group reaction.
Between 1-2 hours is devoted to a focus group, with the norm at around 90 minutes. But since the typical number of participants tends to be 8-10, several such groups, often in different locations, are conducted to gather the broadest range of ideas and feedback.
Over the past few years, variations of the traditional face to face focus group have arisen.
- In the online version, the moderator can expose questions and visual stimuli followed by rapid back-and-forth texting of answers and input. There is no live conversation.
- Another approach involves the use of web cams so that the faces of several (usually no more than 8) people can see each other simultaneously on their computer screens and more closely simulate an in person interaction.
- These techniques permit the conduct of focus groups without regard to geography or time zones, which is helpful if the pool of recruits in a given area is too small. They also eliminate the costs of facility rental, travel, and refreshments.
When to use Focus Groups
Every market research method has its benefits, and a discussion group is no exception. Following are just a few things that make focus groups unique.
- There are times when “yes/no” or multiple choice answers are not enough to understand consumer behaviors or attitudes. This is when a qualitative approach can be used to ask open-ended questions that cannot only help to confirm project hypotheses, but also result in unanticipated and innovative answers.
- Nearly always there is a viewing room for clients that allows them to witness firsthand and record the event unobtrusively from behind a 2-way mirror. As such, from the back (viewing) room they can instantly submit ad hoc questions and provide any necessary clarifications to the moderator.