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A focus group is best defined as a small group of carefully selected participants who contribute in open discussions for research about a new product or a feature update or any other topic to generalize the results from this focus group to the entire population. A focus group is conducted in the presence of a moderator who will ensure the results are as unbiased and legitimate as possible.
Focus groups have a distinct advantage over all other market research methods. They are flexible, it capitalizes on the researcher’s abilities to communicate with people to extract meaningful insights and opinions. A good moderator who prepares well and has had the experience of conducting the focus groups can be a representative for the decision maker.
Focus groups are conducted with participants who have a common interest in the topic of discussion. The purpose of a focus group is not about arriving at a common consensus or some level of agreement or to decide what to do about the topic being discussed. Focus groups are designed to identify and understand perceptions, feelings and know what consumers might think about a particular product or service. Since the focus group uses qualitative data collection methods just as the dynamics in real life participants are able to interact freely and the desired outcome is mostly unbiased.
A focus group is in an important tool for market research. Therefore, it is important to conduct it appropriately. The steps to conducting a focus group, are:
Even though a focus group since is qualitative in nature, the moderator must define the end result and quantify it so that the research is actionable. The moderator must also be aware of bias and try to not let that engulf the research. There are four types of moderators in a focus group. They are:
Complete observer: In this type, the moderator is completely unknown to the research audience and cannot even be seen. This type of research gives the audience more freedom to speak because they think they are not being observed or judged. This model is used when the focus group is being conducted in an open environment.
Moderator as a participant: In this type of a focus group, the moderator is known to the focus group or the people in the sample undergoing the study. In this study type, the end goal of the moderator is known to everyone. In this case, the moderator can play an active part in the discussion. But it is preferred if the suggestions given are limited so that it doesn’t influence the research outcome or sway the group towards a certain bias.
Participant as an observer: In this type of a focus group, the moderator completely indulges the participants and participates in the discussion. Even though the participants discuss in entirety with the observer, they do know that the observer is also a researcher. The moderator in this case though is a family member or a close friend and hence that doesn’t deter the participants from a discussion.
Complete participant: This focus group method is used when deep level insights into the research topic are required. In this case, the researcher is completely in sync with the participants. The discussions are free flowing no holds barred and the researcher indulges in the discussion animatedly. In this research type, the participants don’t know the researcher or even that a research study is being conducted.
There are multiple types of questions that can be asked in a focus group. Questions can be both, open-ended questions and close-ended questions. The questions can be bucketed under the following:
The audience in the focus group is the most important aspect of the focus group. Collecting deep-level insights is possible only if the respondents have been carefully selected and they aid towards the data collection process as well as the end goal of market research.
The advantages of a focus group, are: