Focus Group: Definition, Methodologies & Example

Instructor: Tara Schofield
This lesson explains what a focus group is, how focus groups are conducted, and the methodology of focus groups. The lesson will provides examples of products presented in focus groups.

What is a Focus Group?

Marketing research can take many forms, especially when asking consumer opinions and preferences. One method of qualitative research is focus groups. Focus groups are a forum where two or more participants are brought together and asked a series of questions about a product, service, or idea. They can openly discuss their thoughts and share ideas with other members of the focus group. The leader of the group is there to help facilitate the discussion and gather feedback from the members. This person remains neutral and intends to gather honest, direct responses without swaying the opinions or input of the members.

When asking for input on products, the focus group is shown one or more examples of products that are currently in the market or are being considered for production. In the group setting, the respondents get a chance to discuss the items, ask questions, share their opinions, and give ideas for improving the function of the product. This method of research allows a company to get first-hand, candid responses to their products from a group of people that represent the demographic the company will be targeting. It's an effective and immediate way to collect data about products or ventures a company is considering.

Focus Group Methodologies

There are several factors that must be considered when utilizing focus groups: number of participants, time frame, dynamics of the group, and compensation.

The number of participants in a focus group can vary widely based on the purpose of the information received and the desired outcome. For informal, quick information gathering, a small group is usually sufficient. This may be as few as 2 members. A small group allows more flexibility in how the group operates, interacts, and responds to products. In a more structured or formal focus group, the number of participants may increase or there may be multiple groups of participants in an effort to keep each group smaller but gather more data. In instances where more responses are needed, a focus group may have 12 or more participants and may be repeated among many groups of respondents. This offers a more well-rounded response and a wider variety of opinions to be collected.

The timeframe of a focus group will vary based on the complexity of the product or idea being shared, the total number of products and/or ideas shared with the group, and the number of attendees participating. Most focus group organizers try to limit the total time to two hours of less, to ensure participants do not lose interest or have drops in energy. Gathering data requires active participation and if the session is too long, the attention of the group can waiver.

When pulling a focus group together, a certain level of diversity is wanted within the confines of the demographics of the target group. For instance, if a new smart phone is being introduced, the target market is any consumer who may purchase that smart phone when it is on the market. Therefore, the focus group will include people from all different ages, races, both male and female, and income levels. This provides an insight into the opinions of potential uses from all different walks of life.

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