We’ve all heard of the common term in market research called respondent fatigue.  This takes place in survey research when a respondent’s interest begins to wane and they lose focus in the survey.  Numerous studies have been done on this concept and appropriate measures are instituted in survey design to identify and prevent respondent fatigue.  The growth of e-surveys and interactive methodologies was in part driven by correcting poor data quality that comes hand-in-hand with respondent fatigue.  Although the actual time respondent fatigue occurs with survey takers is debatable and varies greatly, many market research firms will tell you it occurs anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes into the survey.

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Many experts seem to relate research fatigue to quantitative studies and not qualitative.  But having participated in, viewed, and even moderated focus groupsparticipant fatigue is a real concern in qualitative research.  Much like its quantitative counterpart, participant fatigue occurs when a member of a focus group disengages him/herself from the discussion.  Participant fatigue can come in a variety of forms but all are related to declining interest.  Declined interest can lead to a lack of discussion with the moderator, a lack of in-depth answers on participation packets, an attempt at more side conversations with participants, or even volunteering irrelevant feedback to pass the time.  A good moderator can mitigate these issues but oftentimes participant fatigue is more related to the subject matter, than the moderator delivering it.  Keeping a group engaged (even if the topic is less than motivating), is something that a well-trained moderator with years of experience can lessen, but not eliminate.

Similar to alleviating respondent fatigue in surveys, participant fatigue can be reduced through proper engagement.  Warm-up activities at the beginning of the focus group are a nice way to get everyone involved right off the bat and introduces the themes of the focus group.  Mixing in a participation packet for the focus groups (written activities with or without pictures) is a nice way of breaking up an hour and a half to two-hour discussion.  If concepts are being presented, try using projectors or TVs or other similar technology to keep the participant interested.  For instance, if you are presenting some different concepts of new shoe designs, which of these would intrigue the audience more: Three or four print outs in color of different angles of each shoe or a 40″ HDTV with a 360 degree rotating view of each shoe?

Whether the groups last an hour and a half or two hours, participants will offer better feedback if they feel like time is flying by.  So the threshold of participant fatigue in focus groups is not often attributed to time (1:15, 1:30, 1:45), but rather to poor delivery.  Truthfully, although there is no moderator to deliver a quantitative survey to each respondent through online or mail surveys, delivery can also be a root cause for survey fatigue too.  Once the content and objectives of the market research are clearly conveyed, it’s the job of the market research team to make that content as engaging as possible for the respondent/participant. 

QualiSight is a focus group facility just over an hour east of Rochester and offers a similar market makeup for recruiting purposes.  QualiSight also offers easy access to the New York State Thruway and Interstate 81, and New York City.  Our facility, located adjacent to Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), has a focus group room and a newly remodeled client viewing area and client lounge.  If you are looking to book a focus group facility near Rochester, NY, consider QualiSight.

For more information, contact Lauren Krell at LaurenK@RMSresults.com or call 315-635-9802.