POSTED BY: | August 7, 2019

Seeing is believing. The power of virtual focus groups. 

People often ask me; how much do you have to travel? Proudly, I say, “hardly ever”. I’m sure I’m not alone in the fact that the power of virtual communication has changed the way in which we interact with global clients. But for a research company that is 30% qualitative, that is an unusual situation. 

See, qualitative research is often pictured as 8-10 people gathered around a conference table that is positioned in front of a two-way mirror with a small group of client observers behind that mirror. But today, virtual has changed the way we can obtain rich, qualitative feedback without the soft costs of travel. Even more exciting, is how virtual continues to be used for different reasons with continuous innovation. 

While there will ALWAYS be a place for in-person focus groups, virtual focus groups have allowed for possibilities once restricted to include:

1) Reaching a broad audience in a single group. No longer restricted by that 30-minute drive-time to the focus group facilities. 

2) It is truly anonymousHave that sensitive topic? Need to get honest feedback from employees? Need to talk to high level executives that may battle each other if put in the same room?

3) You can talk to more than 8-12 peopleSince you don’t have to wait for each person to finish speaking, you can include more people. This also means that the group talks faster because everyone can be typing at the same time versus taking turns talking. The number of topics that can be covered are double that of an in-person group. 

4) Less biased or groupthink. Since everyone is typing at the same time, responses are less influenced. 

And so many more….

  • No travel costs
  • No opportunity costs with time it takes to travel
  • Full transcripts of the group conversion
  • Dual moderation to maintain group conversation
  • Private conversations to ask drill-down questions to an individual without diverting the whole group
  • Ability to show visuals and videos 

While the number of benefits continue to rise, there is one benefit that was actually brought forward by a client that had me truly amazed on how far we can take virtual. 

The virtual focus groups also allow clients to be online to view the discussion in real-time – just like an in-person focus group. The difference, however, is that you can have any number of viewers logon to participate. This benefit was leveraged when leadership wanted customer-facing employees to actually see how their customer responds. It is one thing to ask a customer directly and get a “safe” answer but put them in an anonymous focus group with expert moderators and truth really comes out. 

But we all know, the power of this is seeing it unfold before your eyes. Not being passed a report or being told second-hand of what was discovered. The insight gained from leading customers through the purchasing process and interaction with sales representatives was ground-breaking. Not because it necessarily told leadership anything they didn’t think was already going on, but it offered an opportunity for those that didn’t believe it, to actually see it. We always say, the data doesn’t lie. Well, in this case, perception is reality and now we have a platform to show this reality first-hand.