Focus groups are a tried-and-true market research methodology that have been widely used to inform advertising campaigns, corporate strategy, and product design – to name just a few uses – since the 1930s. Interestingly, with the proliferation of technology we have at our disposal today, and the sheer amount of data, it’s actually a curious phenomenon that companies still use the low-tech method of having a professional moderator interview people in a focus group. However, it’s actually because we have so much technology, that focus groups matter more than ever. Let’s explore why.
Why focus groups matter more than ever, reason #1: So many choices
Consumers today, almost uniformly, have choices in what they buy, how they purchase it, and, of course, how they use products and services. Your company may design your technology, product, or service assuming it will be purchased on the channel you intend, and used as designed, but of course, this rarely happens. If you don’t have insights into how and why your customers choose to buy your product, use it, and re-purchase it, you’re truly selling blindly, and you’re giving your competition an edge. Small tweaks in your messaging, product placement, and its design can flip a consumer to a competitor – or, if you understand how consumers behave with your product – win you brand loyalty.
This is where focus groups come in. On an annual basis, at the minimum, you need to have conversations with your customers. Where are they buying? How is the experience? How are they using your product or service or technology? What can be improved? What are they doing that you’re not aware of, and how can you use these insights to make your product increasingly tailored? Your customers have choices, and if you’re not listening, frequently, rest assured that your competitors are. And, if you assume that a survey will give you these answers – you’re severely limiting your learnings. A multiple-choice form is a shoddy way to get in-depth product and channel insights.
Why focus groups matter more than ever, reason #2: Data has limitations
Data is great – don’t get us wrong. Data shows us patterns, clicks, page visits, views, etc. It shows us locations and end decisions, but it doesn’t show us why or how people arrived there. And this is a huge gap that even all of the big data in the world can’t help us understand. However, data, when paired with qualitative research, is a magic formula. By using focus groups, we can hone in on a customer’s journey quite specifically. We can ask what caused someone to finally click on the a choice, or learn what they wanted to do, but weren’t able to. We can add color to their decision-making process, and using this data, vastly improve how products, websites, and apps are created, designed, and marketed. Think of focus groups as one side of the hand; data is the other side. Together, they form a complete appendage.
Why focus groups matter more than ever, reason #3: You need brand loyalty
Finally, if we haven’t convinced you already why focus groups matter more than ever, a third reason is quite simple: Brand loyalty. To endear customers to your brand, ensure that they continue purchasing from you, and, most importantly – spread the love about your brand – you can use focus groups to learn from them. What can be improved? What processes or issues are they getting tripped up on when interacting with your product? What are other products offering that yours isn’t? How can you continue to improve what you’ve built? All of these questions can be asked in focus groups. Again, to reiterate, if you think a survey will accomplish this, it won’t. Customers get annoyed by your endless surveys, and true brand loyalty secrets are not going to be learned through multiple-choice forms.
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