When doing qualitative research, we need to decide which is right for the client: in-depth interviews, focus groups, or maybe a combination of both. This depends on the client’s goals.
When are focus groups better?
Dimensional Research recommends focus groups when the client wants to gain multiple perspectives in an interactive group setting.
One of the main benefits of focus groups is that they get the participants brainstorming. When one participant’s comment feeds off of another comment and so on, the group can really dig deep into an issue. When trying to evaluate market acceptance, capture challenges and issues, or understand objections to new technologies or processes, the focus group dynamic is ideal.
Focus groups have another great benefit – the client can sit behind the glass or on a conference call and hear the direct, unfiltered feedback of a large number of participants with no distractions. Focus group sessions are also recorded for further observation. If your goal is to expose the maximum number of your team to direct input from the market, this is a very efficient way to do it.
When are interviews better?
In-depth, one-on-one interviews with technology professionals can be conducted in person or over the phone. These are appropriate when the client wants to identify detailed perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes.
In-depth interviews are particularly effective in the following scenarios:
- When the client’s goal is to capture feedback on experiences that occur in an isolated way, such as product messaging or product usability testing.
- When there is anything sensitive about the feedback that participants may not feel comfortable sharing in front of other people. They may be concerned a competitor is also be attending the focus group. Or in a win/loss analysis, a customer may not feel comfortable sharing details of poor account manager performance if they suspect the rep might be “behind the glass” and could hear him. The customer would feel much more comfortable sharing this information confidentially talking only with the researcher.
Two things that should NOT drive this decision are:
- Travel – Sometimes the decision is driven by the geographical locations of participants. If you’re doing customer research with customers located in diverse locations or if you want global representation in the groups without the cost of travel, you still have a choice. The one-on-one nature of a phone interviews is an easy option, or for the group dynamic choose online focus groups.
- Cost – An important consideration, of course, is cost. As a rule of thumb focus groups and interviews cost about the same per participant, so with the exception of travel – not a consideration for phone interviews or online focus groups – cost should not be the driving consideration in choosing the research approach.