There are many tools available for research – online quantitative polls, face-to-face interviews, postal surveys, hall tests, observation, desk research and focus groups.

Focus groups are small collections of people, normally between 8 and 15, who are gathered together to answer questions and discuss topics.

Because they’re a limited number, it’s hard if not impossible to widen out their preferences into a national sample. You can’t make many confident predictions about how the population will behave based on such a small sample.

However, what you can find are really in-depth, fascinating insights into the topic or product you are after.

Focus groups differ from one-on-one interviews because the group dynamic moves conversation in a different way. For example, if you use them to discuss medical issues, you can receive a lot more than you might from an one-on-one interview, as people relate to other people’s issues and group sessions allow people to open up.  It can become close to a therapeutic session and as a result, you can gain insight that would otherwise remain hidden.

Again, because of the way that you are using and guiding human interaction, focus groups are a good place to observe emotional reactions to products or issues. You can discover multiple viewpoints and see how they interact.

You also have the chance of the discussion going to unforeseen places as the discussion moves away from the set topic, and although this can be a hindrance t(hough a skilled moderator will be able to get things back on track) it can also reach unexpected places where gold can lie.

The more viewpoints and meaning you get from participants the more you can understand and explain why people react the way they do.

Focus groups are certainly a useful tool in the researcher’s box and we recommend looking into the benefits, if you are considering a launch, or would like deeper insight into a problem.

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