Online Focus Groups: Wave of the future?
Focus group interviews have long been a staple of qualitative market research. They’re one of the quickest and most effective ways to gauge customer reactions to a new product or service.
The digital revolution has created the ability to conduct focus group sessions online, instead of face-to-face. The online option is structured much like the traditional focus group, and it also offers the tempting prospect of spending less money, saving time, and reducing logistical hassles.
Is online research an “equal” substitute? In some cases, yes. Perhaps your research involves respondents who are geographically dispersed. Or, you’re studying topics related to the Internet or digital technology that are perfectly suited to an online audience.
But consider these other factors, too:
- Are the right respondents accessible to you electronically?
- Is capturing body language vital?
- Do you need to show prototypes or models?
- Do products need hands-on evaluation by respondents?
- Is your topic highly confidential?
Depending on your situation, you’ll find that face- to-face focus groups are still preferable.
Also, even with phone prescreening and password protection procedures, it’s tougher to monitor online respondents to ensure that your participants actually are who they say they are – and that they’re participating alone.