Focus group discussion (FGD) is one of the most common qualitative research tools. It is effective in extracting consumer and non-consumer experiences regarding products, places, or programs. This method can also be used for generating initial insights.
FGD can be used to address substantive issues such as:
- understanding consumers’ perceptions, preferences, and behavior concerning a product category;
- obtaining impressions on new product concepts;
- generating new ideas about older products;
- developing creative concepts and copy material for advertisements;
- securing price impressions; and
- obtaining preliminary consumer reactions to specific marketing programs.
The FGD is an interview by a facilitator of a small group of people that normally lasts for an hour and a half up to three hours. The participants are selected because of their knowledge about the topic. The objectives must be clear and precise. It takes a great deal of planning from the researcher’s end to ensure that the objectives set are met. There are four key decisions to be made: (1) respondent selection; (2) sample size; (3) data gathering; and (4) data analysis.
Respondent selection includes:
- the definition of the respondents;
- the classification of the respondents; and
- the screening of respondents.
The number of respondents per group should range from six to eight, depending on the skill of the facilitator and the topic being discussed. If the number falls below six, the likelihood of generating .4 momentum and group dynamics necessary for a good discussion will not happen. However, if the group exceeds eight, it may be too crowded, resulting in the passive participation of some respondents and a discussion that is not as cohesive.
Data gathering methods in FGD involve:
- the selection and preparation of the venue and equipment;
- the formulation of the discussion agenda; and
- a facilitator who is very skilled in moderating and possesses the ability to draw out significant insights from the participants.
Data analysis includes:
- the integration of the information gathered;
- some observations on respondent behavior; and
- listing of recommendations and report writing.
Let us go to the nine steps in conducting a focus group discussion.
- Develop the research objectives. What is the research all about?
- Determine the participants’ profile. Who are the most knowledgeable or most relevant participants?
- Determine the appropriate token or “compensation” for the participants.
- Develop a participant screener questionnaire.
- Recruit the participants.
- Select a good facilitator. The key qualities of a good facilitator are:
- kindness with firmness
- involvement and encouragement
- complete understanding
- Develop a facilitator’s discussion guide.
- Arrange for the venue and logistics.
- Analyze the results of the focus group discussion.
In analyzing FGD, the researcher should compare and contrast all points raised by the different respondents and note from what point of view they are coming from. The researcher must summarize the points where the participants strongly agreed upon or disagreed on about an issue. The researcher must also write down quotations that seem particularly relevant to his or her identified objectives and must group similar comments together in order to identify participants’ preferences.
In the final analysis, the objective of the FGD must be addressed and conclusive insights must be drawn to help the entrepreneur improve his or her business. Again, insighting is needed after the results of the FGD have been documented to generate superior ideas or modify existing ones.