Online Focus Group
Online focus groups are becoming more and more prevalent within the research industry. Traditional group discussions still very much have their place but online groups benefit from convenience and helping to easily bring together consumers or businesses who are geographically disparate.
They are useful for generating a lively debate of experiences and using qualitative/projective techniques to get under the skin of perceptions. There are two different types of online focus groups that we undertake, each have different strengths and weaknesses:
Chat based online focus groups
Here we use text chat for discussion and a white board to present specific stimulus/content, as well as utilising quick polls, heat maps and private questions for different activities.
Clients are welcome to observe the discussions as they unfold and post private questions to the moderator during the session.
The platform that we use is web based with no app downloads required. It is HTML based so doesn’t use Flash which may not be compatible with all computers.
The normal format for these online groups is as follows:
- We recruit participants, and a few days before the group send an email with an embedded link which participants click on a few minutes before the group is due to start.
- Pre-loaded questions can be posed, as well as ad-hoc questions and prompts via an online chat facility. The moderator can use chat space, mini-polls and a mix of bespoke whiteboard tasks to explore topics with participants.
- Participants can use their tools to comment, highlight and vote.
- Clients are able to log in and observe the group discussion in real-time and ask questions/ make comments to the moderator during the sessions. A full colour coded transcript is available immediately after the session for analysis.
Chat based groups do work very well, and the more anonymous aspect can also encourage people to open up. In addition, word for word transcripts are automatically generated and available immediately after group. The main downside is that we cannot observe facial responses or body language.
Online AV groups, including voice & webcam
These are groups facilitated by the moderator with use of a webcam, allowing participants to see and hear each other and for moderators to observe any non-verbal cues.
The software automatically highlights an active speaking person in the group, making it easy to see who is speaking at the time.
The platform has all the usual functions of an online group platform such as text responses (if required alongside video) whiteboard space, quick polls, heatmaps and option to show visuals/embed video – although these are best used when participants log on via a laptop or computer with webcam (rather than smartphone or tablet). Again, client observers can view the group live.
We have a maximum of six participants per session, and we require participants to have access to a webcam on their laptop/monitor.
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