Focus groups are a research method used to gather feedback and opinions from customers. Each person in the group is encouraged to participate in a discussion which is pre-planned by a researcher and is guided by a facilitator. Focus groups are typically used to gauge opinion and gather information from users about products, services, and features before they have been developed.
A focus group is a small, but demographically diverse group of people and whose reactions are studied especially in market research or political analysis in guided or open discussions about a new product or something else to determine the reactions that can be expected from a larger population. The use of focus groups is a research method that is intended to collect data, through interactive and directed discussions by a researcher.
Focus groups, or group interviews, is a technique used by sociologists and in different fields of study which include communication studies, education, political science, and public health. Marketers can use the information collected through focus groups to receive insights on a specific product, issue, or topic. It is a form of qualitative research consisting of interviews in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. During this process, the researcher either takes notes or records the vital points he or she is getting from the group. Researchers should select members of the focus group carefully for effective and authoritative responses.
Online focus groups
Focus groups typically are conducted face-to-face, but the emergence of technology has enabled qualitative research to reach online approaches. There are two types of online methods; synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous methods allows for researchers to conduct live chats which try to mimic in-person interviews. Asynchronous methods collect participant information through online communication such as forums and email lists. Challenges within asynchronous online focus groups include sporadic participation over time and a potential timely study. Within synchronous online focus groups, challenges include timing not working for participants and lack of accessibility. Online focus group benefits include no transportation necessary and ease of access, while online focus group complications include lack of technology and minimal technological skill .
Advantages to online focus groups allow those to participant who are geographically far from each other and increase participation by engaging with those who are more comfortable with internet use. Disadvantages of online focus groups include losing associated non-verbal behavior which could factor into assessing qualitative research.