Fuel Cycle

How to do Focus Groups in the Virtual World

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Despite the advent of big data, focus groups are becoming more important and are a growing top market research technique for brands. 

However, to be effective, a focus group has to be well conducted. While there’s a lot of existing information about how to run a traditional focus group, 2020 has thrown us all a new curveball. 

With pandemic-spurred social distancing likely to have a long-term effect, virtual focus groups are becoming the new normal for many brands and market researchers. 

If you want to know how to conduct a streamlined and effective focus group online, keep reading. 

What Is a Focus Group?

Firstly, for the uninitiated, what is a focus group exactly?

Focus groups are a qualitative research method that compiles and analyzes the opinions and viewpoints of consumers around products and brand offerings. Focus groups in market research are typically implemented to test out a target market’s reaction or common preferences around a new product, service, or marketing campaign. 

The A-Z of How to Do Virtual Focus Groups

Traditional focus groups in research are a fairly simple technique, and with the right technology, virtual focus groups can be simple too.

Let’s take a look at the specific steps involved. 

1. Pick Your Focus

The first thing to do is to select the area that the focus group should concentrate on.

Posing too many questions can dilute the results of a focus group. Therefore, it is best to pick one area, such as branding, product performance, product design, etc. for a particular focus group to answer questions on.

Usually, it is best to plan multiple focus groups, each for different areas. A great way to pick your focus is by aligning with quantitative research around the same project. For instance, results from the focus group can guide further quantitative inquiry or vice versa. 

2. Create a Questionaire

Once you have established your area of focus, the next step is to compile a list of questions. Be sure to keep these open-ended and non-leading. Aim for questions such as “what do you think of X product” rather than “do you like X product.”

3. Select Your Focus Facilitators

Focus groups are run by a moderator or facilitator. In addition to selecting the person for this role, it is also helpful to assign a team member to be a notetaker. 

Specialized tools like FC Live make it easy to have private stakeholder observation and backroom discussions. Respondents can only interact with the moderator and each other, but the moderator can see the backroom dialogue and pose new questions on the fly.

4. Source Participants

For a focus group to provide relevant insights, you need to source participants from your target market. Some ways to do this include:

  • From your social media followers
  • From existing customers
  • Through location-based promoting
  • From your Fuel Cycle Community
  • Through Fuel Cycle Panels

To motivate participation, you can also consider offering an incentive. The sweet spot is 4-5 participants for a virtual focus group, but FC Live is able to host more if needed. 

5. Schedule and Hold the Focus Group

Once you have followed these steps, all that is left is to schedule and hold the focus group. With FC Live, it’s easy to schedule and invite participants to the session. They’ll even get an event reminder to join before the session begins.

During the session, aim to promote equal participation and do not be afraid of deviating from your listed questions. Qualitative research is meant to be exploratory and there’s a lot that can be learned with a beginner’s mindset.

Tips for a Virtual Focus Group

If you are planning to hold a virtual focus group, there are some key tips to keep in mind. 

The first is to select the right tool. Video conferencing options such as Zoom or Google Hangouts won’t cut it if you’re hoping to turn your qualitative exploration into quick actionable insights.

For a streamlined process, we would recommend that you look into a specialized virtual focus group tool, such as FC Live that will allow you to conduct focus groups and in-depth interviews (IDIs) and includes features such as:

  • Scalable video analysis
  • Transcription
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Qualitative reporting

To streamline the focus group session you should also ensure that:

  • Participants test your video conference connection and connect early
  • Participants are limited to 4-5
  • Time slots are no longer than 60 minutes
  • The discussion covers no more than 3-5 key topics
  • You plan how you will share stimuli (branding imagery, products, etc.)
  • All participants sign an online confidentiality agreement

Does Your Brand Need to Ignite Its Marketing Strategy?

If done right, a properly orchestrated focus group can be a highly effective qualitative research technique. 

However, there is much more to research and marketing than focus groups. If your old strategies aren’t cutting it in today’s world, we invite you to take a look at our agile marketing insights platform, FC Ignition.

With continuous analysis and research solutions at your fingertips, FC Ignition allows users to evolve their customer experience to meet changing needs. Statistics show that companies with above-average customer experience reel in 5.7 times the amount of revenue than those who don’t. 

The takeaway? Request a demo today and watch your market research efforts ignite.