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Focus Groups: An Effective and Easy Market Research Technique that Helps in Evaluating the Feasibility of a New Product or Service

Focus groups are a type of qualitative research in which a group of individuals provide useful data on market and customer opinions to assist business organizations in product development and testing, analyzing the effectiveness of advertising activities, feasibility analysis, and development of brand image.

Focus groups involve an interactive group setting in which participating groups talk freely with each-other. The participants are asked to share their views, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes about a particular product, service, perception, idea, advertisement, or packing. Thus, focus groups serve as an important medium to acquire feedback about new products and related matters. The group setting is conducted by a trained moderator among a small group of respondents. The discussion is carried in an unstructured and natural way where respondents give their views without any obstruction from any aspect. The successful conduction of focus groups to gather important data depends upon the ability of the moderator to keep the discussion flowing freely with his/her active involvement. The main task of a moderator is to involve everyone in the discussion and inhibit anyone from dominating the conversation.

Such groups enable business organizations to test the feasibility of their business ideas or products /services before launching them fully in the market. Focus groups provide companies instrumental information about the likely market acceptance of the product, and thereby guide them whether to make huge investments on the production of a particular product/service.

Besides a moderator, focus groups are usually a group of consumers, potential consumers, non-buyers, or any other group wished to be brought in the discussion by the company. This research technique is an inexpensive method of market research when it is held on a local basis by a small business organization to get a grip on its customers. However, it becomes an expensive method when a well-established company conducts focus groups in various divisions of the country.

A start-up or small company may arrange focus groups by inviting one or two groups of individuals in a neighborhood home. The total number of participants may be 6 to 8 in numbers. They all can sit around the dinner table and discuss about new product potentials and how to develop markets for it. On the other hand, a large business organization arranges focus groups in a controlled environment. It continuously observes the proceedings with the help of a one-way mirror at one end of the room or videotape or simply tape the session for further analysis.

The focus groups method is a vast market research technique that aims at extracting qualitative data from the experiences of participants about a particular products or services. Market research experts suggest that focus group should be accompanied by other topics also besides the launch of new products. This is because participants sometimes react and give opinion in completely different ways when asked in a group of people and when they are alone.

Data derived from focus groups comprises of small number of participants, cannot be generalized on a large population. However, running 2 or 3 focus groups with diverse participants from the same target groups can give a strong sign of the reliability of the results.