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Focus group

A focus group is a group of people, asked about their attitude towards a product.

In the world of marketing, such a focus group is an essential tool for acquiring feedback regarding new products. In particular, focus groups allow companies wishing to develop, package, name or test market a new product to discuss, view and/or test the new product before it is made available to the public at large and provide invaluable information regarding the product.

In traditional focus groups, a pre-screened (pre-qualified) group of respondents gathers in the same room. A moderator guides the group through a discussion that probes attitudes about a client's proposed products or services. Client representatives observe the discussion from behind a one-way mirror. Usually, a video camera[?] records the meeting so that it can be seen by others who were not able to travel to the focus group site. Transcripts are also created from the video tape.

While such traditional focus groups provide accurate information, they are costly to implement. For example, if a product is to be marketed on a nation-wide basis, it would be critical to gather respondents from various locales throughout the country since attitudes about a new product may vary due to geographical considerations. As can be appreciated, this would require a significant expenditure in terms of travel and lodging expenses. Additionally, the site of a traditional focus group may or may not be in a locale convenient to a specific client. Accordingly, client representatives may have to incur travel and lodging expenses as well.

With the advent of large scale computer networks, such as the Internet, it is now much easier to link respondents electronically and thus not only share images and data on their computer screens, but also avoid a significant amount of travel expenses. The way is paved for online focus groups. For instance, NFO Research, a large market research company, has recently announced a new system of on-line focus groups which allows respondents from all over the country to gather, electronically, while avoiding countless logistical headaches.

While such a system does eliminate some of the logistical headaches and travel expenses associated with conducting focus groups, it still requires one or more representatives from a client to be physically located with the moderator conducting the focus group. Only in this way can questions be added in real time to further probe a particular response. Thus, even the online system incurs some travel expenses since a client representative will need to travel to a research site or vice versa.

Accordingly, there is a need for a system and method of conducting focus groups using remotely located participants, including one or more moderators, one or more clients and one or more respondents, who are all physically remote from each other. In order to do this, such a system must allow for the implementation of at least two separate chat discussions to be conducted simultaneously between the three classes of focus group participants to provide an electronic analog to a one-way mirror segregating clients from respondents. In addition, such a system must allow and prohibit participation in the different chat discussions based on the class of the participant.

see also: marketing research, marketing

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