Director, ACNielsen International Research
While there are a lot of things to consider before conducting Multi-Country Online Focus Group Discussions (MCOLFGDs), the advantages and speed of this method far outweigh any set-up considerations. And the response from clients is a strong reason to advocate its use
Note that the use of this method pre-supposes that the objectives, target respondents, internet penetration rates and qualitative research design are suitable for addressing the client’s research problem.
Advantages of Conducting MCOLFGD
- Cost efficient: approximately 20-25% cheaper than traditional FGDs. No travel cost for client or for researchers.
- Time efficient:
- Transcripts are available at the click of a button; allowing for analysis to be done immediately.
- Unlike offline FGDs, transcripts can be sorted by participant comments (all comments from one participant are clubbed together), by subject (all responses to a subject can be clubbed together) all at the click of a button for better, more efficient analysis.
- No time spent travelling.
- Overall shorter cycle time on projects.
- Better participation from clients:
- Better attendance: convenience of viewing the research as it happens wherever the clients are (we have had clients participating simultaneously from the US, Japan, UK and Italy).
- Better interaction: clients are more likely to request the moderator to ask a question or do more probing.
- Deeper insights and truthful opinions: The online environment eliminates interviewer acquiescence.
- Access to hard-to-reach participants: Easier access to participants who may have very little time to spare for research (ie professionals, business travellers, etc)
- Non-representativeness of the sample: On-line skews participants to those who have access to the Internet and are comfortable with technology.
- No access to non-verbal reactions: Difficult or impossible to see facial reactions/body movements. Emoticons or the use of CAPS cannot substitute for real emotions.
- Stimuli exposure limitation: Certain physical interaction (ie smell, taste) with stimuli may not be possible.
Maximising the Effectiveness of Online Focus Groups
- Over-recruit: A 50% over-recruitment is usually suggested, and will vary depending on the country in which the FGD is being conducted. As with offline FGDs, there are ‘no shows’ and having more participants allows you and the client to select the best profiled participants for the FGD.
- Set up some minimum criteria for screening in terms of:
- Comfort using computers
- Typing/keyboard skills for real time groups
- Minimum computer configurations and/or access speeds
- Absence of firewalls/configurations.
- Re-screen participants with key questions from the original screening before starting the OLFGD.
- Use a moderator who is experienced and trained in on-line qualitative research.
- For non-English speaking markets, the length of the guide will depend on language, script, etc. (ie Japan takes longer due to the multiple key strokes).