Advantages and disadvantages of focus groups
This article aims to identify and explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of focus groups. Focus groups are often used by researchers to gather qualitative data and in-depth insights into a particular topic. Though under used, they are one of the most effective market research tools available. However, it should be mentioned focus groups have some limitations. It is therefore important for researchers to consider several advantages and disadvantages of focus groups when selecting focus groups as their preferred research tool.
Definition of focus groups (What is a focus group?)
A focus group is a small group of people, considered to be the representative of the target segment, invited to openly discuss products or issues at their leisure in a relaxed environment (Brassington and Pettit, 2005, cited in BPP learning Media, 2009).
According to Cambridge Dictionary (2020), a focus group refers to a group of people who have been brought together to discuss a particular subject in order to solve a problem or suggest ideas.
A typical focus group involves a group of six to ten respondents who are brought together to discuss an issue whose inputs are moderated by a trained moderator. The respondents are given opportunities to explore their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and reactions in relations to the issue concerned. Their inputs then result in qualitative information which researchers can use to support their research.
Advantages of focus groups
There are a number of advantages of using focus groups in market research as follows:
The researcher can interact with the research participants face to face. As it is a face to face communication, asking the participants follow-up questions to investigate the issue concerned further is lot easier. Likewise, focus groups may yield real and more insight into the issue.
According to (BPP learning Media, 2009) focus groups provide a group environment with ‘everybody in the same boat’ which can be less intimidating for the respondents than some other research tools where one-to-one contact is necessary.
Surely, interviewing a group of people at once is more cost effective and less time-consuming than interviewing people individually. Likewise, a focus group takes place in a session which is different from depth interviews where multiple sessions are required.
Data obtained from focus groups can be easier to analyse, present, and understand than complicated statistical data. Likewise, the researcher can gauge socio-cultural influences that impact on the respondents. Non-verbal responses, such as body language and facial expressions can also be assessed easily in focus groups.
Disadvantages of focus groups
There are a number of disadvantages of using focus groups in market research as follows:
According to (BPP learning Media, 2009) focus groups may stop some participants from making substantial contributions to the discussions and may encourage others to be exhibitionistic. It damages the purpose of focus groups.
Some analysts argue that as only six to ten people take part in a focus group, this may not be a good representation of the larger population. Likewise, conducting focus groups may be difficult as sometimes the participants may get involved in discussions that are irrelevant to the main issue.
Skills and abilities of moderators also impact on the quality of data obtained from focus groups. If the moderators cannot frame a question appropriately, then the inevitable result is nothing but collection of poor data. Likewise, they may sometimes inject their personal biases into the discussion which impact on the outcome of a focus group.
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Last update: 25 October 2020
BPP Learning Media (2009) Marketing, 1st edition, London: BPP Learning Media Ltd
Cambridge Dictionary (2020) Focus group, available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/focus-group (accessed 22 October 2020)
Author: M Rahman
M Rahman writes extensively online with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.