Qualitative Research: Focus Groups

  • Traditional Qualitative
    Focus groups, which are the most widely used qualitative technique, are small-group discussions led by a moderator.
    Focus groups are ideal in the early stages of research: they can educate us (about a product category, for example), help us learn what we do not know (the unknown unknowns), help us understand the vocabulary consumers use for a particular product category, help us develop hypotheses about consumer motives and motivations. Groups can be used as a problem-reduction "filter" when the questions and issues are so numerous that quantitative research is not yet feasible. The focus group is an ideal exploratory technique because of the freedom, stimulation, and spontaneity inherent in group interactions.

Focus groups come in different formats and platforms. We choose the platform and format that best fit the needs and goals of your project.

In-Person Focus Groups

The Typical In-person Focus Group consists of 8 to 10 respondents (although smaller groups are possible). Each session lasts from 90 to 120 minutes. The moderator creates a relaxed, open, accepting atmosphere so that the participants feel free to express their thoughts and feelings honestly. Usually, in-person focus groups are conducted in facilities with one-way mirrors to allow clients to observe.

Sensitized Focus Groups

Focus groups can sometimes yield richer and more insightful answers if respondents have time to think about a topic. For a Sensitized Group, respondents are in some way sensitized in advance to allow time for reflection upon the topic. For example, respondents might be given a list of questions several days before the group discussion, or the respondents might be asked to use a specific product or visit a store before the group discussion. These "sensitized" respondents typically provide a greater depth of information and more insight than regular focus group respondents do.

Webcam (or Online) Focus Groups

Online Webcam Focus Groups are typically smaller than in-person focus groups (only 4 to 6 participants per session), and each session lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes. The qualitative interviewing techniques are very similar to those for in-person focus groups, and the analysis of the resulting data is identical to that of in-person focus groups. Webcam groups are almost as good as in-person groups and generally cost less than in-person groups (no travel time, no travel expenses). Webcam groups are ideal when budgets are tight, when respondents are too few and too far apart for in-person groups (think B2B), and when stimuli can be accurately presented via a computer screen.

Online Chat Groups

Online Chat Groups consists of 8 to 10 respondents (although smaller groups are possible). Each session lasts from 90 to 120 minutes. Participants in online chat groups type their answers to the moderator’s questions. After respondents submit their answers to a question, they can then see how others have responded to the question and can direct questions to other participants or make additional comments to react to the ideas of other respondents. Respondents can also be asked to take pictures and/or videos (of their homes or shopping experiences, or of them completing a specific task, such as using a product) and upload them as part of the group discussion.

A typical online chat group consists of 8 to 10 respondents and a moderator, and most sessions last about an hour. Online chat groups are ideal when a precise record of respondent answers is needed, when topics and questions do not require great depth, and/or when quick turnaround is important. Photos, concepts, and ads can be shown to the participants during the session, and their reactions to them can be recorded.

Telephone Focus Groups (Telegroups)

Similar to an in-person focus group, the typical Telegroup consists of 6 to 8 respondents (although smaller groups are possible) and a moderator. Each session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The moderator creates a relaxed, open, accepting atmosphere so that the participants feel free to express their thoughts and feelings honestly. Respondents and the moderator can participate from their homes or offices. Telegroups are ideal for hard-to-reach groups, such as low-incidence product categories and B2B professionals.

Dyadic and Triadic “Group” Interviews

In Dyadic and Triadic Interviewing, two (dyadic) or three (triadic) respondents are interviewed at the same time. This approach provides some of the interpersonal stimulation afforded by groups yet allows the interviewer to cover topics in greater depth. The dyadic and triadic designs lend themselves to "confrontation" techniques—users can be paired with nonusers, believers with nonbelievers, antagonists with protagonists—to uncover underlying feelings and motives. Dyadic and Triadic “focus groups” are ideal for low-incidence and other hard-to-reach targets where it’s very difficult to recruit a large group to participate at a particular time.

Experienced Qualitative Consultants

Decision Analyst has over four decades of qualitative research experience and is a leader in developing innovative qualitative research techniques. Our experienced moderators can recommend the qualitative technique(s) best suited to your research needs.

For more information on our Qualitative Research services, please email Clay Dethloff, Senior Vice President, at cdethloff@decisionanalyst.com), or call him at 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.