The objective of Focus Groups is to gather in-depth data on a variety of questions from those individuals defined as the potential target audience for a product, service, or concept. In other words, the consumer’s viewpoint.
Because of the qualitative nature of the research, Focus Groups are principally used to obtain a GNS (Gross Negative Screen). In other words, to spot directional trends—negative or positive—that are likely to impact the concept being presented. If a strong enough trend emerges—ie. pronounced like or dislike—a ‘red flag’ is considered to have been raised, requiring additional discussion and evaluation before proceeding further with the research. Focus Groups are considered qualitative research, unless enough of them are conducted to create a statistically valid sample (minimum 30 respondents; preferably 50).
Focus Groups can be run before, after or in conjunction with other ongoing quantitative or qualitative research. Often, the results are distilled down to key issues, and then those issues are incorporated into a subsequent quantitative research project which seeks to validate (or invalidate) the data, and provide statistically sound results upon which to base strategic decisions.
The Client should clearly define exactly what they want the Focus Groups to accomplish, as well as providing the research firm with a good contextual background on where the Focus Groups “fit” in the larger strategic objectives of the brand/service/company. The more information and better oriented the research firm is, the better able they will be to craft a productive set of Focus Groups.
There can be multiple objectives within a Focus Group, but they should be logically associated with each other. If they are too broad, development of questions for the Moderator’s Guide, etc. becomes difficult and the resulting data will not be very useful. These objectives should be fairly specific, ie. measure response to different pricing levels; evaluate a packaging concept.
Properly designed Focus Groups are a powerful research tool, whether used to evaluate products or services, or to explore new ideas, concepts or issues.