It’s fascinating that new survey technology and easy access to millions of consumers could be affecting the focus group industry more than the quantitative survey industry. But a colleague who has been doing focus groups for over 20 years says that’s exactly what she is seeing.
The reason? Many clients have been using focus groups not for deep understanding of consumer needs and preferences, or to generate creative group dynamics among participants. They were using them to get reactions and “votes” on package designs or product concepts. Do you like the blue package, or the red package, and why? Current technologies make it much easier and faster to answer simple questions like this through online surveys. Since there is not a lot of research design or analysis involved, clients can do this work themselves.
There will always be a role for the expertise that a good focus group moderator or analyst offers, but helping clients pick between the red box and the blue box is not it. When technologies make our work easier, faster, and cheaper, it makes sense that we bring key elements of this work back in house, while we work with partners and experts to tackle the tougher research challenges we face.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.