Moving Focus Groups Online

Why this brilliant tactic will benefit your operation

Dealing with COVID-19 has brought about fundamental changes, and not all of them are bad. One example is how working remotely turned into a huge benefit for many companies and their employees. The pandemic has forced us to find and efficiently use new technology tools and, in many cases, we’re discovering benefits that we’ll incorporate into our lives and jobs moving forward, even when we’re back to “normal.”

Another change we’re seeing is in the huge surge in researchers now conducting online focus groups (OLFGs).

Moving your focus groups online

Brands need to constantly be in touch with their customers to understand market dynamics. Quantitative research just doesn’t cut it sometimes; we end up with data that we know is reliable, but we don’t understand why our customers responded the way they did. That’s often the sequence for consumer research – first, conduct a quantitative survey. Then the data from that may identify topics that you want to know more about, and that’s when focus groups can really fill in the knowledge gaps that you need.

Social distancing and other external factors have put a damper on in-person focus groups. It’s the perfect time to make the switch to online focus groups.

Benefits of online focus groups

Cost: This is a primary benefit because your costs are a fraction of what they are when conducting in-person focus groups. You don’t have to pay for researcher travel and expenses, and you don’t even have to get F&B to bring in trays of snacks and drinks for participants!

Location: No worries about blocking out the executive conference room for the focus groups and guiding people there, or finding extension cords for the tape recorders.

Recruitment: It’s easier to recruit attendees when they don’t have to travel to a focus group location. You can also get attendees from outside your primary market area because distance is not a factor. This gives you a more diverse pool of guests to invite.

Content Quality: Another benefit of going online is that attendees give more natural responses when they’re in their personal comfort zone, versus a conference room setting surrounded by strangers. The more honest and open that attendees are, the better the data will be from your group.

Zoom to the OLFG rescue!

Some are specifically designed for research, while others are web conferencing platforms that can be used in the same way, although they may not have all the bells and whistles that an expensive, more sophisticated platform may offer.

You’re probably already using Zoom for virtual meetings, but it also has quickly become one of the most popular platforms to use for OLFGs due to its ease of use and affordability. Also, many of your guests have already installed it as they seek to stay connected with their jobs, friends and family during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Version 5.0 of Zoom

Zoom was designed as a video conference platform, but it’s just as effective as an online focus group tool. The latest 5.0 version includes 256-bit GCM encryption to provide even greater data safety and security.

It has full HD video and audio functionality, so the quality of the calls and recordings is excellent. For researchers, there is the option to co-annotate and use whiteboards to mark up content and share ideas with participants for feedback.

Other great features of Zoom:

  • Cloud recording security – Researchers can set expirations on their cloud recordings and disable sharing for added security.
  • Require registration – You can require participants to register in advance.
  • Screen sharing – This allows everyone to view content in real time and helps the researcher take notes.
  • Polling – This is a great Zoom tool for asking questions and capturing responses in real time.
  • Raise hand – This helps maintain order during the session and ensures that all participants get a chance to contribute.
  • Lock the group – After everyone who was invited has tuned in, you can lock the group.

Basic rules haven’t changed

  • Define your research objectives
  • Experienced moderator and assistant
  • Six to 12 participants who are recruited to match your target audience
  • Carefully crafted questions to cover your topics
  • Have a concise script, but be prepared to go off-script if warranted
  • 60 to 90-minute session length

Final thoughts

Conducting online focus groups could be one of the best research tools you can use these days. It can help you understand what your guests think about changes you’ve implemented, such as extra cleaning and hygiene on your gaming floor. It can help guide you as you transition back to big promotions and events. And it can give you real-time input from your guests about any aspect of your operations, so that you and your team can make better decisions.

Deb Hilgeman
Deb Hilgeman 16 Articles