What are online focus groups and research discussions & forums
- Real-time online focus groups which are those that occur in real-time over a period of 60 to 90 minutes in a chat environment, where text responses posted in response discussion topics managed by a moderator. Over-time focus groups, as the name suggests, occurs over a period of days and sometimes weeks. The format is text-based comments and replies in response to discussion topics or questions.
- Over-time online focus groups borrow some of its benefits from community-based interaction, while incorporating the immediacy of real-time chat focus groups, but with a larger audience. Over-time online focus groups are managed by an online moderator. For the moderator, the main difference between the two includes the option of managing multiple over-time online focus groups concurrently and the ability for participants to log in at a time and place convenient to them.
This is an image of the “Classic” style discussion template.
Over-time online focus groups can be said to be all about the ‘WHY’ and go beyond online surveys to help you understand what drives decisions, how people behave, and how you can address the needs and wants of the individual. One of the most compelling arguments of over-time online focus groups is that the data can be accessed, filtered and analysed as the conversation progresses. Not forgetting to mention the fact that it can reduce the time, cost and resources required to conduct a focus group.
So how do over-time online focus groups work?
You first need to decide what it is that is driving the decisions within your business or organisation. Framing the objectives is always one of those things we think about but don’t do adequately. The purpose of the group, such as to find out why people eat apples in the morning. To define the context of our group, and generate the topics for discussion, let’s assume we need to determine the best way to communicate a message to promote an apple type. Under the umbrella of “eating an apple in the morning” we need to know the preferred apple, the sweetness or bitterness of the fruit, the types of apples preferred, the number of apples eaten and different times during the day.
This is an image of the “Social” style discussion template.
We spend a moment defining our online focus group goals:
- Why people eat apples at different times during the day?
- What type of apples do people prefer and why?
- What sizes do people prefer and why do they choose this size?
- Why do people decide to buy apples from a particular location?
- What would make them switch the apple type and why or why not?
- If you could create your own apple what would it look and taste like?
A list of research goals helps us set up the topics we use to structure our online discussion plan to use in our over-time online focus group. An advantage of using the online environment to run your groups is participants can take pictures of their favourite apples and places they like to purchase the apples. The images or video are then uploaded to our group each time they buy apples. We might like to monitor their behaviour and have them give us a snap shot off their buying behaviour over the week.
To ensure our group is a success we need to make sure everyone is on the same page. A clear introduction to the online focus groups is essential in assuring the participants take part based on a standard set of instructions. Over-time online focus groups give you control over your topics. Once you have engaged your participants, you have the flexibility to take the discussion in any direction you need to, and you take direct ownership of the data produced.
As a form of online feedback and market research, the over-time nature of the online focus group process enables you to ask follow-up and clarification questions. You may make a discovery in the first few days of the group and decide to include a new topic to deep dive into the reasons why people have answered a certain way. Perhaps you need to get a consensus on a particular subject or reframe the discussion to have people explicitly declare a negative or positive position on an idea. The time you get to structure and manage the discussion is a distinct advantage of using overt-time online focus group technology.
Insights generated from overtime-online focus groups can take many forms but framed around the topics you post for people to respond too. You might also include simple poll questions, or include links to a more detailed integrated survey. Add an image task and have people click on image areas that have the greatest appeal. You may even use online focus groups as a launching pad for other online tasks. Transcripts from the online focus group can hold hidden gems of insights, including new ideas, unseen issues and in-depth feedback uncovering the WHY!