Focus Groups

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Qualitative market research is particularly useful in understanding the ‘whys’ behind the ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘who’ and ‘how’ of quantitative research. For this reason, we advocate the use of focus groups in combination with quantitative market research methods with many of our clients. In addition to standard market research focus groups, we have developed our own solutions and we are also able to recruit respondents on the basis of their values, beliefs and motivations using the Values Modes™.

Focus groups are sometimes referred to as discussion groups. Typically, we want a group of people who all share similar characteristics, either in terms of behaviour or perhaps common demographics. We are using a small sample of people perhaps of a specific target market segment to explore a particular subject or topic.

We are able to offer a flexible solution which means we can offer our clients a full-service solution, which includes respondent recruitment, discussion guide development, focus group moderation plus reporting and presentation. We can also, however, offer a recruitment-only services option, which allows a 3rd party to moderate the groups, or we can moderate groups previously recruited by our clients or a 3rd party agency.



How do you recruit people to attend a focus group?

Again, this is largely a function of the research brief itself and we will look to recruit people quite simply in those places where we are most likely to find them. So, for instance, regular users of a particular shopping centre we would ideally want to recruit in the shopping centre itself rather than elsewhere in the town. Typically, we recruit members of the general public off the street and use a short screener questionnaire to ensure they fit the desired criteria for attendees.  On other occasions, we may recruit via phone.

How long does a focus group last?

Whilst there are no set rules, most typical focus groups run for up to 90 mins.  The important thing is to be able to manage the time effectively and to manage the expectation of attendees.  Once you start to go over the agreed time attendees will feel increasingly uncomfortable, and the quality of the discussion is likely to suffer.  Always confirm up-front how long the group is scheduled to last.

How much do you incentivise focus group attendees?

Since people are giving up their time, typically up to 90 mins, to devote to an in-depth discussion on a particular topic they will be incentivised to attend. The actual amount of the incentive does, however, vary according to the different types of people you have invited.  Deciding the right level of incentive is one of the skills of the market research company.

Where is the best place to hold a focus group?

Whilst venues can sometimes be provided free of charge by clients, the preference is for a neutral venue.  In a neutral venue, such as a hotel meeting room or conference room there is less pressure on the respondents to feel they have to react in a particular way, for instance, to please the client. Obviously commercial rooms charge commercial rates but the professionalism this portrays about the client’s brand is also important. Parking or accessibility is also an important consideration.

When are the best days and times to hold focus groups?

Focus groups, unless they are specifically required to be carried out at the weekend, tend to be conducted during the working week. As a rule, it is best to avoid Mondays or Fridays and to concentrate on the three midweek days. It is worthwhile checking other events happening on the days you intend to run your research – for example, big sporting events can have an impact on attendance or even travel.  Much depends on the criteria you have specified for the attendees, for example, older people or the retired may be less comfortable attending evening groups, and those working full-time may find it difficult to get along to a mid-day group.

Can you mix ages and genders in a focus group?

This very much depends on the brief i.e. the purpose of the research. Generally, we like to keep gender and age groups apart. This is because in a focus group we are often looking to generate feedback from a specific group of similar people – for instance we might be targeting a core group of customers, e.g. Mothers with children of primary school age.  So, in the group we would only want mothers who had young children living with them at home. In other cases, we might want a group of people who held particularly strong opinions about a particular subject or were passionate about a particular brand. In that instance, we might feel it was useful to have a mix of ages since it was their attitudes or brand loyalty that was the common factor bringing them together as a coherent group.

What is the ideal number of participants in a focus group?

Typically market research focus groups consist of around 8 to 10 participants, however, it is more about the importance of the screening and recruitment process than the actual number of people.  We can get more value out of 6 well-recruited attendees than 12 poorly selected attendees. Remember, if we want to use research to help reach decisions it is probably better to use quantitative research, where we might be speaking to upwards of 500 people through a survey, rather than a small sample of just 8 or 10 people in a focus group.

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We talked to Latimer Appleby following a recommendation from a client. They took the time to understand the client and the objectives for the research and were organised, efficient and kept me updated throughout the project. Consequently, I’d be very happy to recommend them too.

Victoria Jarratt, Group Account Director | Factor 3

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