While in-person focus groups have been around since the 1950’s, online focus groups are a relatively new addition to the marketers toolkit having only arrived on the scene in the late 90’s.
As a result, the benefits of in-person focus groups are generally well known, while the benefits of online focus groups are not quite as well known. So without further ado, we present the benefits of online focus groups…
Benefits of online focus groups
- Geographic reach – Online focus groups allow you to recruit from a wide geographic area (nationwide and even globally), unlike in-person groups which, by definition, are limited to a relatively small geographic area.
- Cost savings – Online focus groups eliminate the need to rent expensive focus group facilities, travel to those facilities, provide food and beverages to observers and participants, purchase expensive video recording capabilities, pay for facility hosts, etc.
- Time savings – Given the relative ease through which online sessions can be scheduled and recruited (compared to in-person groups), running a focus group online can cut down the time it takes to run a focus group significantly. This is really where SpeedyGroups shines, as we’ve figured out how to cut the time to get your results from 5+ weeks to just 5 business days!
- No travel required – Few people have the time or ability to take a week out of their schedule to travel to multiple cities and conduct in-person focus groups. There are just too many other projects going on! That’s where online focus groups really shine, as they can be casually observed from your home or office with no need to ever travel to a facility.
- Convenience for participants – Related to the above benefit is the convenience that online focus groups provide to participants, as they can join from their home or office without having to travel to a facility. This tends to result in higher show/participation rates than in-person groups.
- Convenience for observers – Similarly, client observers can watch the sessions happen in real-time from the comfort of a virtual “back room” area, without ever having to travel to a focus group facility (or to multiple focus group facilities across different cities).
- Increased access by observers – One of the challenges with in-person focus groups is the back room area (the area behind the one-way mirror) is limited in the number of people it can hold. This means that some people that may benefit from watching the group(s) in real-time will not be able to attend and must watch the videos later. Online focus groups (like the kind done by SpeedyGroups) do not limit the number of people that can observe the focus group(s).
- Reduced “observer bias” – If you have ever observed an in-person focus group, you know that the big one-way mirror can make participants uncomfortable because they have no idea who is behind the glass or what those people are saying about the group/participants. This can bias the findings by leading to an “observer bias” (sometimes called the “Hawthorne Effect”). Online focus groups significantly reduce/eliminate this effect, leading to less biased and more authentic results.
- Greater authenticity – Somewhat related to the above benefit is the increased authenticity and honesty that is demonstrated by allowing people to participate from the comfort of their home or office. They no longer feel like they are in the awkward, contrived research environment of an in-person focus group and feel more comfortable sharing their opinions openly.
- Increased moderator control – Online focus groups give moderators additional mechanisms to control issues that can pop up in traditional in-person focus groups, including “group think” and domineering respondents, which can result in higher quality findings from online focus groups.
We should note that the benefits of online focus groups will vary somewhat by the type of online focus group you are conducting. For example, text-based groups suffer from an inability to view facial reactions when compared to webcam-based focus groups, although they have other advantages as well. We’ll be sure to cover the relative advantages and disadvantages of different types of online focus groups in future posts…
Regardless, these are some of the benefits of online focus groups that you should be aware of when deciding the approach you would like to take for your next focus group project. If you’re interested in trying out an online focus group of your own, get in touch with SpeedyGroups – your first online focus group is on us!