There are variety of methods to conduct qualitative research to help understand consumer’s opinions, beliefs, attitudes & perceptions on a given subject of interest. The most common ones being Focus group discussions and Depth interviews. Focus Groups are a group of interacting individuals, brought together by a moderator or interviewer, who drives the group and its interaction to gain information about a specific research topic. While in-depth interviews are where researcher interacts with respondents on an individual level, one consumer at a time.
Both methods are equally important & effective. One or the other or both needs to be employed, depending on the Research objectives and Target segments to be researched.
Focus group is recommended when the client wants to gain multiple perspectives, unfiltered feedback of a large group. In focus groups, participants get involved in the brainstorming activity which leads to generating ideas as participants get opened and truly and freely share feelings/perceptions upon the subject as per their experiences. When one participant’s opinion/perception feeds off another opinion/perception and so on, the group discussion can really dig deep into the issue. Focus groups are generally required at concept development stage or when the product is an innovation in the market and for products which entail group decision-making.
While in-depth interviews are recommended when client wants to understand individual decision processes. It gives a chance to explore detailed perceptions, opinions, beliefs, attitudes and decisions and compare differences and similarities among reference group members. It is valuable when researchers want individual reactions placed in the context of the individual’s experience.
However, focus groups becomes impractical in a few situations as follows:
- Too many segments to cover
- Respondents too spread out – so can’t get them to a central location
- Too intimate a topic to discuss in open – not suited for a focus group
- Need to understand each respondent’s practices in depth – say, at different stages of their life