This blog post was written by our guest blogger Mark Dengler, Owner & President of RMS.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could read our customers’ minds? Well, the next best thing is to conduct qualitative market research. Focus groups and In-depth Interviews (IDIs) open a window to help us gain detailed and in-depth information about what a target population may think or feel about a specific product, service or idea. These widely used qualitative research tools, while not quantifiable, can be very enlightening as they provide an understanding of the customers’ attitudes about a recent service experience or product use. Who better to ask than your own customers?
Both methodologies are used to gain free-flowing ideas and opinions that would not be possible to express in a written survey. A combination of qualitative (focus group, IDIs) and quantitative research tools (surveys) complement each other very well, and make up for what each approach individually may lack.
The choice of which qualitative or quantitative methodology to use will depend on the objectives you hope to achieve from the primary research and your target audience.
What is a focus group/IDI?
A focus group is a small discussion group facilitated by a trained moderator. Typically, eight to 10 individuals are invited to share and explore attitudes on a specific topic of interest for approximately two hours. The moderator encourages participants to freely discuss their feelings and opinions, and is skilled at asking probing questions to gain insight and depth of attitudes.
An IDI is typically a face-to-face conversation between a researcher and a single respondent with the purpose of exploring issues or topics in detail. Sometimes IDIs are completed over the telephone or using electronic software such as Skype™. The interviewer encourages the participant to freely discuss his/her feelings and opinions and is skilled at probing further to gain insight.
Most people really enjoy being part of these research modalities. They are not asked to purchase or endorse anything; in fact, participants are typically thanked with a stipend or honorarium that varies depending on the topic of interest.
When should I use focus groups and IDIs?
Focus groups and IDIs can be used to accomplish a number of different objectives. They are generally used when you’re looking for more than yes/no answers and you need more information than a survey can give. The key feature is that these research methods allow for thorough probing. For example, if someone says the lobby was “busy,” this term could be positive (provided real energy, good vibe) or negative (felt congested and overwhelming). Focus groups and IDIs allow for a better understanding of a respondent’s perceptions.
Some specific applications of both methodologies include:
- Identifying attitudes, perceptions and/or satisfaction about your product or service;
- Identifying and defining the needs of a specific user group;
- Learning your competitive position perception in the marketplace;
- Generating new ideas for products or services;
- Role-playing or the dynamics of a larger group such as a school board meeting, town hall meeting or other larger community event;
- Obtaining broad-based community perceptions;
- Identifying opportunities and barriers related to your product or service; and
- Testing advertising copy, themes and packaging.
Most importantly, these research methodologies are relatively quick and inexpensive, offering in-depth insight into consumer thoughts.
Mark Dengler is the president of Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) a market research firm in Syracuse, NY. For more information about RMS, email our business development team (located in the right toolbar of this blog) or call us at (315) 635-9802.
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