The last week we have been learning about qualitative methods of research. The qualitative method that interested me the most was a focus group. I was intrigued by this method because a focus group is supposed to provide a moderator with a deeper understanding of the individual consumer. Their comments and opinions provide detailed information and a better insight to the true feelings of a consumer. This past Thursday, our class held a mock focus group and I was apart of the lucky group that had to go upfront and participate as respondents of the semi-structured method of research. I gained a better understanding of what a focus group truly is, but I was surprised how I answered many of the questions and the overall effect of the focus group. Personally I felt slightly uncomfortable answering certain questions in front of an audience and as a result, I didn't exactly tell the truth. I also felt rushed to answer at various points of the study and I didn't voice my entire answer and opinion. At the end, we discussed our feelings and my group members felt the same as me. Our reactions made me think...are focus groups a beneficial qualitative research method. Yes, our mock focus group was not a true example. Normal focus groups wouldn't have a large audience and they would take hours, but I wondered if my comfortableness would've changed. I decided to look into the issue and find an article that related to my experience.
After looking up various articles, I stumbled on the link above. The article "Ad Agencies: Are Focus Groups Dead," describes how the advertising industry is about to experience more change in the next five years than it has in the last fifty. There are new communication innovations and technology has advanced to a new level. As our society moves faster and faster, focus groups are beginning to seem irrelevant, time consuming, and costly methods of research. Companies are now thinking that flying somewhere, getting together a group of reliable respondents, renting out a space, and taking time out of their day is unnecessary and there are alternative ways to gain information and insight about consumers. Internet-based research is a new method that companies are using more often. Online surveys are cost-effiecient and require little time compared to focus groups. They can also be sent out to a wide variety of audiences. Companies could potentially gain a new audience or target market from the online market. Online surveys can also stimulate interest in a product or service. By using video, animation, and audio techniques within the surveys or questionnaires online, consumers could get excited or interested in a product whereas if they were in a focus group they wouldn't have the ability to view the product or service in this light. Companies have more control over online surveys because it is much easier to manage and sort information. Sampling, respondent bias, demographic information, skip patterns, etc., can all be controlled at an easier level if the survey is conducted online.
I have no doubt that focus groups will remain as a method of research, but from my experience of participating in one and after reading this article, I believe they won't be as prevalent of a source. As our society continue to modernize our research methods have to keep up. Companies will have to turn to the methods that are quicker, cheaper, and more efficient.