Focus Group Moderation

Advantages of Focus Groups: The Case for the Future

Welcome to my first blog post on this website! The goal of this blog is to provide interesting qualitative market research tidbits, as well as to provide a voice from the trenches of qualitative research. I, Daniela Hassman, am the author of this blog as well as a qualitative research moderator and Founder of SmartPoint Research, a boutique style market research company that provides services such as fieldwork, project management and focus group facilities in Canada. Today the focus of my post will be on the advantages of focus groups for the future.

Being the founder of a business, one of my duties is to stay abreast of market research industry trends. Recently, I have read numerous blogs and articles devoted to predicting what may happen in market research in 2012. It seems to me that there are more articles devoted to predicting the future this year than ever before (although, this trend also took place before Y2K). Thinking back on Y2K, I find it amusing that “everyone” thought that the world would come to a halt because computers would not register the date correctly. At least that’s how I remember the kerfuffle. I also recall that Y2K was not a big deal and it just came and went like any other year. Admittedly, there have been drastic changes in technology since I started my market research career in 2005. In addition to this, there have also been changes in the economy.

Technology affects the way consumers interact with products and it also impacts research techniques as now there are many more to choose from. For instance, social media monitoring was something that was non-existent a few years ago because social media did not exist a few years ago! The economy has a great impact on consumers, companies providing goods and services, and research budgets. As we can see, there are many changes taking place right now in many facets of our lives. We are on unsteady ground.

Naturally, being a qualitative researcher, I am interested in the topic of change as it affects consumers and qualitative research, specifically the advantages of focus groups. Are focus groups a thing of the past? Can new research techniques stand up to what focus groups offer (i.e. hearing your target market say what they want from your product or service and discussing their values and beliefs in person)? People (otherwise known as consumers to us researchers) are doing more online socializing, but as humans we still crave that personal connection. We are biologically wired to discuss and reflect and to have in-person conversations. Until humans as a species evolve and become wired for other things, I think the focus group will remain an important part of market research. It may become even more precious as our in-person interaction increasingly becomes more scarce and consumers start to search out that human connection from other sources. The notion of being invited to voice their opinions in person to a person (the qualitative research moderator) who is willing to listen and interact will delight them.

Yes, it is true that now there are more market research methods to choose from than ever before, and even more methods sure to be emerging in the near future, but in my opinion none of them provide the same rich, insightful, deep information and advantages as the focus group.