A previous post discusses how focus groups still have curb appeal among market research agencies – click here to read it. Projects at our QualiSight focus group facility in Syracuse, NY cover everything from advertising message development, new product concept testing as well as many other applications. There’s no question this market research technique has delivered useful insights to countless decision-makers. But it’s also true that the market research industry sometime uses focus groups without due consideration of an alternative form of qualitative research: in-depth interviews (IDIs).

The advantage of IDIs over focus groups include the following:

  1. Better rapport. In a one-on-one setting, the interviewer can devote complete attention to each research participant, listen actively and take time to establish good rapport. Also researchers can make the surroundings more relaxing for individual interviews. This makes respondents feel more at ease and facilitates a good bond.
  2. Better sampling. Many focus group facilities have compiled lists of willing focus group participants (qualitative panel) that are used to reduce costs of purchasing new lists. Because recruiting is easier when scheduling IDIs and researchers need fewer respondents to attain the same results, random sampling is employed more often, increasing the general confidence in findings.
  3. Useful with Difficult Recruiting. When recruiting hard to reach individuals, setting up IDIs is a better option than a focus group because you only need to accommodate one individual. IDIs also elicit candid responses in a private setting regarding personal and/or professional topics of discussion.
  4. Fewer distractions. It is not unusual for one or more participants in a focus group to be especially talkative or try to dominate the discussion. A good moderator can manage these situations, though this usually has some effect on other respondents. IDIs eliminate the distractions.
  5. Faster and cheaper. IDIs are usually quicker and less expensive than focus groups. Special facilities are unnecessary, researchers need fewer participants and scheduling is more flexible. Participation commitments are easier to obtain resulting in lower incentive payments for IDI participants.
  6. More productive. Compared with non-response among focus group members, there are relatively few unproductive IDIs. As a result, researchers only need about half as many respondents to accomplish the same objectives.
  7. Deeper Insights. In a typical focus group, respondents have an average of 10 minutes each to talk (~120 minutes divided by ~12 people). With IDIs, each participant has more time and opportunity to share feelings, perspectives, and attitudes. The interviewer has plenty of time to probe and obtain in-depth responses since respondents tend to express themselves more freely.
  8. More flexible. Focus groups limit location options. In contrast, IDIs offer greater flexibility in location because researchers can set up almost anywhere or conduct the interview over the phone.
  9. Faster adaptation. In many projects, researchers make findings during the interview that lead to discoveries. It usually requires only a few IDIs to make the discovery and implement change, where at least one focus group is required to do so, and in some cases two are needed. The sooner researchers can identify an issue, the fewer resources it will spend on a flawed design.

In-Depth Interviews work best in B2B research where you are interviewing someone with specific knowledge or if the situation is better suited to sitting down one-on-one. When the market research involves B2C research, focus groups are often the preferred mode.

Need some help defining which method works best for your needs?  Visit our website by clicking here or by calling our Business Development team at 315-635-9802.