Not Comfortable With Focus Groups?

We Recommend In-Depth Interviews Instead

If there is any research tool we hear criticized by management, its focus groups.  We disagree with many of the criticisms we hear about groups.  What does concern us though, is that clients often conflate focus groups with market research in general, thereby writing off the valuable benefits that research can provide.  Focus groups are just one of the tools we utilize (click here for a full list of market research tools and their uses).

Focus groups are a legitimate research tool that have specific purpose and application.  The value of groups lies in the value of communication - both verbal and non-verbal (physical reactions).  People talking with each other often gives rise to experiences, insights and ideas that management does not have.  Even though management has expertise with products in a category, management may not have experience using the category, especially under a wide range of conditions.  Focus groups can also be a great mechanism for discovering unmet consumer needs.  Group talk can lead to insights such as “I wish they would make a…”  or  “why hasn’t anyone thought of a …?”  Needs and wants voiced in groups can often become the impetus for new products.
Despite these benefits, we think there is a better alternative than focus groups.  While we will conduct focus groups if a client demonstrates a need, we always recommend individual in-depth one-on-one interviews first.  Here is our reasoning:


  • * We get far more information from interviewing ten people for half an hour each (5 hours) or an hour each (10 hours) than we get from a focus group (2 hours) so our data is much richer.


  • * We can dig much deeper into the thoughts of one person (sometimes using uncomfortable silence as a tool) then we can with a group where someone is always going to have a ready answer.  We can also relate the individual experience and background of that person to their answer in the course of their interview – something that can be done only to a limited degree in the public forum of a focus group.


  • * Loosely structured interviews permit flexibility in the discussion, allowing freedom of both the interviewer and interviewee to change the direction, and allowing in-depth probing and follow-up questions with every single respondent.


  • * No group interaction effects.


  • * We can challenge an individual response to a far greater degree, again providing richer, more in-depth insights.
Please call or email us if you would like to learn more about focus groups and in-depth interviews.  We are happy to discuss the pros and cons of each and to prepare proposals that define your project needs and how we propose to meet them in the best possible, most cost-efficient way.