Qualitative Research Venues

April 25, 2009

We are often asked “where is the best place to hold Focus Groups?”  This is actually quite straightforward.   Here are some tips.

  1. Brand image: As the identity of the client or business under study may be announced it is important that the location used is somewhere which reflects the status of the brand. 
  2. Easy access: This means that a location should be chosen with good public transport links and with nearby parking.
  3. The basics: The room should be big enough to accommodate your respondents and you sitting comfortably in a circle with some additional sits for observers ‘at the back’, have some natural light, be at a comfortable temperature for up to 15 people (not have a noisy air conditioning or heating unit to disrupt the voice recording) , be totally quiet and closed off from any people wandering in or past,  and tea/coffee/water (but not alcohol) should be available.  Having a separate area to meet and greet the respondents so they can gather until all our present is really helpful.
  4. Beware cheap alternatives: Be aware that the brand owner’s own premises may not be ideal, for instance with shopping centre research attendees are less likely to be critical of their experience if groups take place actually in the centre’s management suite.
  5. Rented rooms: Most branded hotel chains offer more than adequate facilities for the purposes of holding Focus Groups.  Again the savings to be made in ‘no cost’ alternatives are usually false savings if the facilities are inappropriate (see point 3) since the cost of the venue tends to be less than 10% of the total project cost.
  6. Filming: One final point, if clients wish the groups to be filmed they should ideally be held in bespoke studios which are available around the country. These locations are usually fitted with two-way mirrors and an observation room.  If a viewing facility is not available filming can be arranged through a freelance professional service.

Focus Group Respondents

April 25, 2009

Another question we get asked is how do you determine who to recruit for your Focus Groups? Essentially we will aim to recruit to a given specification which is likely to be defined by criteria such as age, gender, or life stage, but can also be determined by attitudes, values or behaviour.  Where a clear recruitment brief is available that is one thing, but I’ve also been faced with the comment “I want to appeal to everyone from 18 to 80.” It’s a nice concept but essentially flawed, as far as Focus Group research is concerned, unless you are able to stretch your budget to cover all these groups.  Our approach is that in qualitative research we are aiming to talk to a small group who between them may help us uncover those issues relevant to a particular demographic, in other words each group’s composition should be of ‘like-minded’ individuals to maintain relevance. 


So it is important that we recruit along certain lines.  A too tightly-defined group, for example ABC1 current users, aged 28, non-working mums and married with 3 children, might be feasible to recruit given enough time and money but is almost certainly one extreme.  At the other end of the scale a group spec of ‘Female shoppers aged 18 to 44 years’ is probably too wide, since the 18 years olds are more likely to be living at with their parents, or possibly students, and the forty-somethings may well have children if not grandchildren of their own.  This means that they will have quite different perspectives on most issues, including your brand or market.  Mixing genders is also something that we try to avoid.  For example, combining young male pub drinkers and young female pub goers in a group could be a complete waste of time and money as each potentially is oppressed by the others expression of their differing motivations and needs from a pub. Female shoppers also have particular views on shopping which males frequently do not begin to comprehend and mixing them is not at all advisable.


The key issues to consider when creating groups, therefore, are:-


  1. Gender: the ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ cliché is true in most markets.
  2. Age/life-stage: Pre-family respondents probably don’t have any interest in nappies, and many retired have no need for a mortgage!
  3. Social class: Although this has fallen out of fashion it is still in vogue in the popular press and a number of brand owners still target using social grade or class.
  4. Income: students, unless they are independently wealthy, are probably not in the market for Ferraris and many of the better off are not likely to be motivated by a lot of promotional offers.
  5. Usage/behaviour: This is possibly the most important issue when?, how often? and have they ever used your brand? – if recruiting for ‘regular’ users what is your definition of ‘regular’? Lest not forget the all important lapsed user or the non user group where it is vital to ensure they fit your criteria of ‘non’ or ‘lapsed’ customers.
  6. Values, beliefs and motivations: These are the deep-seated drivers that influence behaviour, and that help to explain the reasons behind the behaviours that take place.