POSTED BY: | July 26, 2022

The landscape of market research has shifted, especially for SMARI (yay remote work!). Perhaps one of the biggest shifts happened in conducting focus groups – SMARI went from primarily conducting IRL focus groups to 98% online focus groups since the pandemic. This has been a win-win in our experience – our clients are happy to receive insightful data for a cheaper cost than in-person focus groups and we are happy to do our jobs remotely. In case you’re curious, here is SMARI’s basic guide to online focus groups:

How do online focus groups work?

At its core, focus groups are a kind of qualitative research method, which have traditionally been conducted in-person (think Mad Men if you’ve seen it, I have not but Google said it has market research themes). Now, you can get paid for simply sharing your opinions in a chat-based or virtual environment. The basics of online focus groups are the same as in-person, a group of people answering questions posed by the moderator.

What are the pros?

  • Everyone can be anonymous in an online format and this can lead to more honest insights – no one holds back.
  • Easy and cheap. Being online is easier for everyone involved and leads to more cost-efficient research. No one has to travel, there are no party platter/snack expenses, and participants can log in from anywhere in the world. Being easy and cheap in an online format also allows SMARI to turnaround our research much quicker.
  • In-depth insights. The moderator has the ability to ask questions in any order and can steer the group in any direction. We have the ability to ask individuals for more information outside of the main group, so answers can be honest and anonymous.

What are the cons?

  • Technical difficulties. Participants need to ensure they are using a device that allows them to quickly reply to questions or allows them to participate with video. Sufficient internet is also needed. Unfortunately, technical difficulties are out of a market researcher’s control.
  • Inability for observed behaviors. Within a chat format, body language, facial expressions, and tone cannot be observed. Some aspects of product testing are lost since participants cannot pick up the product and test.
  • Engagement can wane. Distractions at home for participants can move them away from their computer screen and can cause delays in replying. Sometimes groups have a disruptor (a participant that tries to hijack the conversation), which can be difficult to get the group back on track.

For us, the pros outweigh the cons for online focus groups. We have been providing our clients with informative research and we don’t expect for this trend to change any time soon.