Here’s a customer survey for you.
The focus group is:
C) Killing innovation
D) More relevant than ever before
The answer is all of the above. It just depends on which opinion you trust, or at least upon which online opinion you encounter first.
What we can agree on is that the advent of Big Data has made the traditional model of gathering people of a desired demographic together behind a two-way mirror and monitoring every reaction they have seem very 1950s.
After all, why go to all the trouble of doing all that gathering and interviewing–and supplying the danishes and coffee–when you can get accurate information on exactly what a person buys, when they buy it, and what they buy next from a digital map of their movements?
Aside from any ethical concerns big data brings, the reason why speaking to people directly about their purchasing habits and brand relationships still works is simple. You get to ask them “Why?” There’s still value to be had from a focus group, but it has got to be a better focus group. It’s got to be a video conferencing focus group.
Real Answers from Real People
We’ve written before about how video conferencing could provide more accurate election polling by allowing pollsters to return to the more information rich research method of face-to-face interviews. And, how Hollywood can use the same tech to improve test screenings.
The same dynamic applies here, with focus groups.
- Video conferencing is the only way to speak face-to-face with a lot of people, at different locations, at the same time, and
- The most reliable qualitative research method is face-to-face interviews
That’s pretty much the entire argument for video conferencing as the platform of the future for the accurate use of focus groups. It’s the easiest way to get the best information. And there’s no reason to believe that based solely on our opinion, because it is already starting to be used in the field.
Smarter Marketing with Video Calling
Atlanta analytics firm Vantedge Group has switched its focus group meetings to a purely online experience through the use of video conferencing. According to their own testimony, the transition has reduced meeting costs by half, improved the productivity of those being questioned, and increased overall efficiency. The information Vantedge gathers through its virtual focus groups is then used to inform new tech like its predictive marketing program for credit unions.
Video focus groups are also used by the world’s bigger business fish as well. Microsoft uses it as part of their ongoing user research, and Google does the same. Even selecting and servicing the right kind of people to become the subject of an online focus group has become a business.
Just how these companies actually conduct their focus groups is obviously a trade secret, but we can certainly see several major advantages to gathering face-to-face information online.
Getting More from a Focus Group with Video Conferencing
Being able to simultaneously meet with people scattered throughout the country, or indeed the world, not only saves expenditure on travel, it also increases the depth and breadth of a sample.
Using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, a company can directly contact groups that meet its specific demographics. For instance, it could search for volunteers within a moms’ group on Facebook that deals specifically with reflux issues. Or, it could search Twitter for people who’ve recently commented on visiting a particular retailer, or those who often mention riding the NYC subway system.
These contacts can be instantly added to a live focus group discussion no matter where they reside. The proliferation of video calling functions on smartphones, and the fact almost everyone has a smartphone, means test audiences don’t need any additional technology or infrastructure to join a discussion.
There’s also the chance to get more creative within a meeting. Common video conferencing features like screen and file sharing, and the increased availability of streamed media within a video chat let interviewers supply all sorts of relevant visual and audio information. Further adding to the flexibility of a meeting, group members that are of particular interest can be asked to switch to a private chat room for some extra one-on-one time.
Meetings can be recorded for further scrutiny without interrupting the flow of dialog, participants can provide instant digital responses through chat or messaging, multiple interviewers can be employed by simply popping up on an empty chat window, and on and on and on the innovations go.
Regardless of how the focus group is viewed now, by adding video conferencing it becomes a far more powerful and efficient method of finding out what potential customers are thinking.