Improve Your Online Market Research Focus Groups

Loss of opinions can seriously harm your session

One thing I’m often asked when talking to clients about online market research and virtual advisory boards is, “how can we more effectively moderate participants particularly when online”. This is a particularly important point for the following reasons:

  • You can often have a particular set of personality profiles in a session
  • Being online rather than face-to-face can exacerbate certain behaviours, explained below
  • A session on the computer needs to be varied to keep participants’ attention

In this article we’ll look at the above issues and how by simply using multi-user interactions we can effectively mitigate these and gain a better quality, in-depth understanding of the opinions and advice given by the group.

Is this an important issue?

Yes, very. When you have a group online, particularly experts in their field, you’ll find particular personalities crop up time and time again. These will include people that are dominant, who may speak first and loudest and can be quite intimidating to others. Participants that are shy and want to avoid confrontation, not necessarily revealing what they really think. Those that play Devil’s Advocate, adopting opposing views. Experts who are distracted by email or their smartphone. Or people who are pre-occupied with something else and never really engage with the subject matter. Whilst a good moderator can mitigate these to an extent, the danger is that as the session progresses, some of these factors will still remain, detrimentally affecting the quality of the report.

What’s the technique that can help?

We define the “e-vate capture” paradigm which uses specific interactive sequences at the start of each section of the virtual advisory board to mitigate these issues. A simple example would be a section to discuss who important the manufacturer is to you when you are choosing to buy a new car. Everyone could just be asked the question, but if instead we show an importance scale interaction to the group, and they all use it to express their opinion in isolation, we can then pass this information to the moderator or chair, before beginning the discussion. There are a number of advantages in using this technique prior to rich qualitative discussion. Everyone discloses an opinion allowing the moderator / chair to direct the discussion efficiently, spot any sub-groups of opinion, direct time efficiently by spending more time on subjects where there are key differences, and see if opinions change after discussion.

How does this affect personalities?

Using this technique at least at the start of each discussion topic ensures all opinions have been expressed without dominant characters affecting others, giving those who are intimidated an equal voice, keeping experts interested and engaged through activities, and preventing people with a tendency to play Devil’s Advocate being able to do so as they are unaware of other opinions when they vote.

Taking interactions further – your ideas

The above example is a simple vote, but there are many other types of interactions that prove useful, from drag & drop, timelines, to brainstorming. Do you have any ideas of interactions you have seen work well with live focus groups or advisory panels and wonder how they can be provided online? Use the link below to see the full article at the market research online advise portal.

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