How to determine if you should use in-person vs. online focus groups?

How do you make the decision to do Focus groups online vs. in-person? We recommend focusing on study goals and team learning prefereneces rather than simply looking at budget. seo information . While online groups can reduce travel and facility costs, they often increase complexity in terms of organization and don’t always provide team members with the required “seeing” to believe! So, online research needs to be managed carefully.

We recommend looking at the following considerations when trying to determine if online is the appropriate methodology:

1)  What is the benefit for the study in having the team Watch the respondents and their reactions? While online groups utilizing video streaming can approximate the back-room experience, there really is no substitute to getting those deep visceral reactions afforded to in-person attendees. If you are conducting Ad-views, product demonstrations, or have very tactile stimuli and it is important for members of your team to see respondents interaction, we recommend in-person over online (even if that means fewer groups).

2)  What is the nature of the “homework” or pre-group stimulus? Often times you want the consumer to experience other brands, products or environments before the discussion. Whether competitive shopping, or trying to get the consumer in the right mindset, extended (and mobile) homework assignments can frequently be enhanced by an online experience. We recommend combining short surveys with photo upload for “road” assignments, followed by a more comprehensive “daily journal” at home (we prefer utilizing Facebook for this component!).

3)  On the fly changes: Oddly, both in-person and online afford researchers the ability to make quick changes to the research—just in different ways! In-person can be wonderful for highly creative types (i.e. Agency personnel) looking to make real-time tweaks to ad copy or ad lobs, as the emotional reactions of the group can be interpreted and used. On the other hand, the rapid iteration afforded by online groups (due to their speed of deployment) can mean entire Discussion guide changes can easily be deployed—perfect for early exploratory work.

Of course, cost is also a factor. As well as travel time and staffing concerns. But, we believe the best practice is to focus on the study outputs to determine how you organize the research inputs!