Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some reasons to consider daytime focus groups

Consumer, market, and other industry researchers are all very familiar with nighttime focus groups.  The common perception is that it's easier to recruit participants for groups in the evening because they spend all day working and have free time at night, and that it avoids recruiting too many stay-at-home moms, retirees, students, and other "undesirable" respondents. I'm not actually aware of any other reason for nighttime groups other than these. Oh, and that it just happens to be the industry standard, at least as far as I can tell.  

This article, however, does a great job of countering the notion that nighttime focus groups are the best option with a brief outline of a couple pretty pertinent reasons.

While I would not advocate for doing only daytime focus groups (I would advocate for choosing what's best depending on the project goals and timeline), the author, Ron Raskin, highlights some great reasons for “challenging the industry norm.”  

Raskin is a veteran marketing consultant and partner at Insights In Marketing. In his many years of experience, daytime groups tend to have a better show rate and elicit more emotive responses from more engaged and receptive participants. I imagine this can be quite different than an 8:00 pm group of participants who got up at the crack of dawn to get their kids to school, go to work, sit at a desk all day, and sit in traffic for an hour just to get to the facility. How tiring! Oh, and that point about people working during the day? He cites the increasingly common flexible work schedule of many modern American workers, which enables people to take a break from their 9-5 (or 7-3, etc.) or come in on their day off to participate in a group.

He also argues that daytime groups provide more flexibility for the overall research timeline by allowing more time during the day for concurrent research and planning activities. This point really resonates with me considering the short timelines for most of the projects I work on, many of which use focus groups as a key methodology. Although I prefer to limit the amount of groups I do to just a few a day, doing it during the day would allow for me to spread them out far enough so I can rest in between as well as analyze data if time is of the essence (not to mention take care of other work/projects/email/etc.). In the past, I've only done focus groups at night, which has caused me to limit the number of groups to only two per day (one at 5:30 pm and a second at 8:00 pm).

Both day- and nighttime groups have their pros and cons, and in the business world, scheduling them often comes down to what is most cost-efficient and convenient. But what seems like something that will get you the 'best bang for your buck' may not always get you the best insights, which are worth more money in the long run than any savings you might get up front. And even though there are preventive measures researchers can take to design approaches and methods that will give us the best results, the success of focus groups in particular largely depends on the ability of the moderator to engage participants, no matter the topic of discussion (insurance, anyone?). 

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