Focus groups have always been a popular qualitative research method. But “online” is the secret sauce that makes it versatile. COVID-19 hit the market research community hard, but where there is a will, there is an online focus group.
Online focus groups provide you with- 1) flexibility, 2) speed, 3) better insights and 4) representativeness. These qualities make conducting research easy, efficient and convenient. All you need are participants, a platform and a moderator.
While online focus groups seem straightforward, they can quickly become redundant and inaccurate. But don’t worry Edison; this guide will help you crack the code on your first try!
What is an Online Focus Group?
Online Focus Groups are virtual meetings with specifically selected participants to discuss a topic. The main objective behind this meeting is to understand and analyze the opinions and perspectives of consumers.
Types of Online Focus Groups
Online focus groups allow you to reach a wider audience making it easier to gather insightful feedback without delay. Basis the interactive nature of online focus groups, they can mainly be categorized into two types-
Real-time online focus groups are conducted at a pre-defined time using a video conferencing tool. The moderator asks the participants questions, and they engage in deep, meaningful conversations.
The feedback collected during this session is an effective method for gathering quality data.
When to use- Real-time online focus groups are used to test content, products, and concepts and collect consumer feedback.
Bulletin Board online focus groups are conducted online but are not real-time. Online users complete surveys or questionnaires or leave feedback in an online community.
This type of online focus group can occur in intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly), and users can interact with each other and moderators about different topics.
When to use- Bulletin board online focus groups are used for idea creation and co-creation with brand promoters and selected audiences.
How to get started?
Now that you know the basics, let’s dive deeper into the nitty gritty of conducting successful online focus groups.
# Breakdown your Main Goal
Defining the end goal of your research study is not enough. Break down your study into various milestones to ensure you don’t miss anything out!
Tips to keep in mind-
- Don’t try to achieve everything in one go. It will leave the respondents confused and unwilling to participate.
- Break down each milestone into further touchpoints to keep the discussion on track.
- After every regular interval, check if the needs and expectations of the study are being fulfilled.
# Schedule your Research Study
It is easier to bring people together for qualitative online discussions because there is less requirement for location. Since the discussions occur online, participants can be gathered together regardless of location. To ensure that participants, observers, and other stakeholders arrive at the research on time, the study must be scheduled in advance.
Tips to keep in mind-
- Check for any technical issues by joining earlier than the respondents.
- To avoid last minute rescheduling, check with respondents again a few days prior to the call.
# Ask the Right Research Questions
It is important to ask the right questions in online focus groups. The open-ended nature of qualitative studies also makes it open to interpretation. This can cause the study to go astray and be a massive waste of time.
Tips to keep in mind-
- Start the call with an ice-breaker question to make the participants comfortable and ensure maximum participation.
- Define the objective of the study and work backwards.
- Keep your questions short, crisp and unambiguous.
- Don’t use complex words and keep your questions conversational.
- Use a mix of exploratory, engaging and follow-up questions.
- Don’t forget to ask exit questions to ensure all touchpoints have been covered.
# Analyze your data in detail
Not fully analysing the data can cause you to miss important insights and reduce the effectiveness of the online focus group. To make sure that all of the ideas are recorded, it is crucial to thoroughly analyse the discussion recording and notes.
Tips to keep in mind-
- Consider using an end-to-end research platform which provides automated insights and reports.
- Go for a video conferencing tool or platform which provides accurate transcription, so that you can cross-check any missed details later.
- Segment your discussion into various parts for easier collaboration and analysis.
Best Practices for Effective Online Focus Groups
# Choose the right respondents
Like salt to food, respondents play a fundamental role in the success of an online focus group. It is essential to select respondents who represent your target audience and have relevant knowledge or experience.
While recruiting an online panel for your focus group, ensure that they meet your desired criteria before the start of the study. You can use your own panel, partner with a panel company or use a research platform for conducting end-to-end research.
# Make a clear and straightforward discussion guide
An essential element of an online focus group is the conversation guide. To keep the discussion on course, it should be prepared in advance with specific goals, open-ended questions, and suggestions. The moderator and stakeholders should also examine the discussion guide to ensure it meets the study's objectives.
# Select a competent moderator
A competent moderator is crucial to an online focus group's success. The moderator should be skilled at leading dynamic, interesting discussions and have expertise in leading focus groups.
# Use an online focus group research platform
Using a video conferencing tool is not enough. In a time where research is evolving, your research process needs to evolve too. Using an end-to-end research platform lets you- 1) host your online focus group, 2) upload existing videos, 3) analyze and segment the data collected, 4) get access to an online panel, 5) get accurate transcription and translation and much more.
# Incorporate Emotion AI Technologies
Emotion AI is not just a buzzword. It marks the difference between an online focus group and a successful online focus group. You get accurate and actionable insights by integrating facial coding and voice AI technologies.
You don’t have to hire Sherlock Holmes to help you segregate the genuine responses. Facial Coding enables you to map the consumer's emotional response, while Voice AI maps the tone of the voice to help you understand how accurate the responses are.
Online focus groups are a popular qualitative research method. But as research is evolving, it is essential to revamp your research process. Due to the open-ended nature of focus group discussions, it is easy to go astray and land with inaccurate and redundant data. By incorporating the simple tips and tricks mentioned above, you can conduct effective focus group discussions online.