Focus Groups in the Post-Corona Era
For many public and private sector organizations, focus groups have become an essential part of a fully integrated market research program. But in the throes of the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine assembling a dozen strangers in a small boardroom for a couple hours of close conversation. And even when this crisis is behind us, the world has already changed and so will many of the standard approaches and practices we depended on before we all donned masks. Focus groups, for one, may never be the same again.
Market research has been a mainstay for private and public sector organizations for nearly a century. Back in the 1920s, the golden age of radio, marketers recognized the need to understand the demography of their customers so they could choose which radio shows to sponsor. That was really how market research as we know it today began. Skip ahead a century with the emergence of surgically targeted online advertising through Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other social platforms, the need for market research has never been greater. Through it all, focus groups have remained a key step in the process, whether early on to help shape large-sample quantitative studies, or as a final check on consumer messaging and marketing materials. But how can we gain the important insights focus groups yield without violating the social distancing demands of the post-Corona world?
We need to re-engineer the focus group.
We have integrated video conferencing into our digital public engagement platform, 76engage, to give private and public sector clients the flexibility and security of conducting focus groups within the 76engage platform using Zoom. An added benefit is that focus group participants can respond to specific questions directly on the platform rather than forcing the moderator to count hands as she or he would in a traditional in-person focus group. This actually adds a quantitative element to what has historically been qualitative research. These digital focus groups are managed in the same way, with a moderator and the ability to test visuals (stills and video) and audio materials while the participants remain safely in their own homes.
This new feature consolidates 76engage’s leadership in the digital engagement market and complements the survey, consultation, and engagement capabilities of the platform. With the world now online, it was perhaps inevitable that focus groups would somehow move online to continue to give organizations the proven benefits qualitative research offers without the expense, and in the midst of a pandemic, the danger of gathering strangers together to solicit their views. Of course, it also means no more coffee and doughnuts for the participants and the clients behind the glass. So, there are also health benefits to this new approach.
Integrating video conferencing in a proven digital engagement platform is an elegant solution that offers clients a new, improved, and cost-effective way to conduct focus groups in a socially-distanced world.