Why online focus groups can't be overlooked

Olivia JoynerResearch Director, Qualitative Research
June 29, 2016, 10:10 AM UTC

In life, sometimes what we say in person can often differ from our innermost thoughts, whether that’s due to social pressures, the company we find ourselves, or perhaps just coyness.

Online focus groups are often overlooked by companies looking to conduct in depth research, believing they have deficiencies compared to the traditional (and still very useful!) face-to-face version. But this is often a missed opportunity for a client looking to make the most of its research

Niche Audience

Focus groups are particularly useful in gaining in depth opinions from the exact target demographic a client wants to reach, but in some instances it is hard to get all the right voices in a single room.

In some cases, participants may be unable to travel to a venue due to illness or other practical considerations.

On other occasions, they type of person a client may wish to talk to may be so niche that it is not realistic that they travel a great distance to be part of a physical group discussion.

In both instances, an online group discussion is an expedient option, allowing the participant flexibility and the opportunity to participate from the comfort of their own homes or workplaces.


Qual research using vox-pop style selfies


Revealing Findings

Online focus groups are especially useful when considering a potentially controversial or personal topic. Examples may include; discussing health conditions and debt, views on benefits or political intentions.

The anonymity provided by being behind a computer screen helps to take away the prospect of a respondent feeling uneasy about voicing a particular opinion to what is essentially a room of strangers. There are free from feeling judged and any accusatory glances.

Therefore, when the participant feels more comfortable, they’re more likely to be truly open and truthful in their responses.

What’s more, the trained moderator overseeing the session is able to talk privately to any individual as it progresses should the need arise, as well as signpost them to relevant support services if needed.   

All of which means that when the participant feels safe and relaxed, the client is in an advantageous position, and may well garner findings that are even more useful than anticipated. 

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