Data is used to tell stories. Our job as researchers is to investigate this storey on behalf of stakeholders. Testing client preference on actual physical features, for example, might be as simple as asking, "Do you like the green or the blue?"
‘On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to choose this packaging from a supermarket shelf?'
This type of study is ideal for getting a fast picture of client preferences and behaviour.
However, unless we delve a little further, there is a story and a journey behind these decisions that we don't see unless we dive a little deeper. The researcher can determine where a customer is won or lost by studying this trip. As a result, in-depth market research goes beyond testing to find expressive data - information that not only properly depicts the customer's voice in dialogue with the product, concept, or stakeholder, but also elucidates "why" customers behave in specific ways.
A researcher's toolkit contains a variety of tools that can assist a stakeholder in better understanding customer behaviour: At idstats Research, we use a variety of tools, including question boards, report cards, diary studies, surveys, polls, forums, focus groups, and IDIs. Each of them plays an important role in bringing stakeholders and participants together. Focus groups, in particular, can, in my opinion, be the driving force behind a successful research trip.
The Value of Focus Groups
A fundamental output and advantage of focus groups is the production of unexpected ideas and interpretation. When a researcher, as a moderator, is able to build and cultivate a really communal atmosphere within a focus group, we can notice aspects of participant behaviour that we wouldn't ordinarily be able to see. The moderator manages the balance of more and less strong characters during participant engagement, but it is the interaction between participants discussing concepts and products that can yield the greatest insight.
A focus group, according to Kitzinger (1995), "capitalises on conversation amongst study participants in order to create data." While this may also be done using technologies like internet forums, focus groups provide a more comprehensive data set by capturing tone and physical reaction. Instead than being a by-product of the focus group method, group interaction and the collecting of nonverbal data are an integral component of it. Natural reactions to concepts are the most honest, and thus the most enlightening, when looking for expressive evidence. A researcher can then develop organic outcomes with effective moderation.
In a way that a researcher cannot, group members can interact with one another about the topic matter. Participants in a properly curated environment can joke around, share anecdotes, share unexpected experiences – and even argue; all of these natural interactions provide insight into how concepts and product ideas perform in a community setting, and allow the researcher to operationalize consensus and dissent to generate valuable organic data.
Of course, the focus group method has its limitations and pitfalls. A focus group, for example, is not a suitable vehicle for truly delving into concepts to the same degree as an in-depth interview because sessions are time-limited and shared among numerous members.
Second, there is always the risk of participants completely revealing data (e.g., personal habits that they would rather not share in front of a group), which implies that focus groups may not be the most fruitful vehicle for themes like personal cleanliness or moral decision-making. However, if the moderator or a somewhat uninhibited group member broaches the topic and sets a precedent of open debate, a successfully moderated group can also encourage discussion of ‘personal' or ethical topics.
This leads to another essential factor: group management. A badly moderated focus group, particularly one that is overly reliant on rigorous scripting, does not encourage open dialogue among participants, and so does not yield the rich organic data and insight that we need.
Focus Groups as Part of a Research Toolkit
I previously stated the successful research journey; in this trip, organic data is generated using instruments such as focus groups. These solutions give customers a voice and add value by allowing them to communicate in a shared space.
Focus groups are frequently used to confirm research findings, but they can also be valuable (if not more so) earlier in the study process.
I described the tale and journey behind customer preferences and behaviour at the start of this blog. We only see a glimpse of a customer's storey while performing a survey, poll, or even a qualitative method like a question board. We can, however, ask consumers questions that have been developed and informed by other consumers if a researcher is able to use a focus group to inform the creation of additional research materials.
For instance, a stakeholder might be looking into the following essential metrics concerning a product:
· What is the most common way for customers to use this product?
· In what situations would they choose this product over a similar one?
· What would be a catchy phrase to entice potential customers?
A popular way is for a stakeholder to establish assumptions about customer behaviour and then ‘test' these assumptions to see whether they are correct; nevertheless, this approach risks overlooking important consumer behaviours and insights. In this situation, the usefulness of a focus group is the development of insights to test in a survey, for example.
A focus group can be created to generate answers to questions by ensuring a representative sample. A survey, for example, may be constructed as a skeleton, with answer possibilities populated with data from focus groups. Using the product as an example, a portion of the focus group could ask, "How do you typically use our product?" This subject is then discussed in a casual and conversational manner, resulting in organic data about how a product is (and is not) used in general.
These applications are then incorporated into the survey design and evaluated with a larger group of people. Ideas for a product's insightful and appealing tagline can be produced in a focus group and then tested in a survey, informing branding with consumer-derived concepts for consumer-driven ideas.
Generating Expressive Data
Focus groups are a straightforward, low-cost, and effective method for us to explore the complete storey of our data and convey the consumer's voice in conversation with the product. Our research insights may be as spontaneous and genuine as possible while yet include bulk testing of consumer behaviour by engaging with the consumer's voice as part of the research design process.
This leads to richer, more in-depth emotional and intuitive insights. We can give stakeholders significant and actionable data by putting customers in conversation with both the subject and each other. Rather than getting lost in the shallower mass data that verifies theories or tests pattern behaviour, stakeholders may now receive in-depth customer insights that can question product developers' and marketing staff's preconceptions. During focus groups, a stakeholder I'm working with has frequently uncovered new applications or usage barriers for their products that they hadn't considered prior. Focus groups, on the other hand, are a great way to get confirmation because an agile script allows for study of both consensus and divergence in a single session.
A focus group can help us understand why a participant makes a decision, which goes beyond a simple understanding of the decision itself; we gain a deeper understanding of how a product or concept really fits into participants' lives and experiences, which is a powerful source of insight for decision-making. These insights can then be put into action based on a deeper understanding of customers as people, resulting in increased customer-brand interaction. When a product or concept can be demonstrated to have been produced with a true understanding of the target demographic, it is inherently more appealing to the customer and promotes higher brand loyalty.
The more intimate and emotional statistics obtained by actually talking to customers about the product (rather than simply testing factory-made hypotheses) are of ever-increasing importance as customer experience increasingly competes with price and product as the major brand differentiation indicator.
A poorly run focus group can be nearly useless; if a topic is dominated by specific voices or too scripted, there will be no organic data production. When led by a skilled moderator, however, a focus group can play a unique role in the development of expressive data that captures the consumer's voice in engagement with a product or concept.