In the age of digital and mobile everything, how do focus groups fit into the overall marketing initiatives for brands’ Customer Experience programs?
The Customer Experience – CX – is front and center for brands in today’s market, and for good reason. Improving the customer experience is key in increasing retention, satisfaction, and sales. The perception a customer has on how a brand treats them is what drives loyalty. According to a 2017 Walker study, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, and by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Being “customer focused” is not enough. Brands must be committed to the way their customers experience their brand.
With so many new and emerging options available to researchers, how do focus groups fit into the quest to improve the way customers experience brands?
We utilize focus groups to gain valuable insight into the heart and mind of the consumer, to capture their feelings about products, services, and concepts along every stage of development. But where Don Draper and his “Madmen” cohorts were limited in their testing methodologies, our current marketing research options are increasingly expansive. The past decade has seen a firestorm of disruptive advances in the marketing research industry: online surveys, digital screeners, social media marketing, AI, online communities, mobile, video, webcam interviews, and more. In this environment and with so many effective choices, how important are focus groups?
In a nutshell – VERY.
While today focus groups may exist as one of many tools in the toolbox (not so 25 years ago), they are still “the” qualitative method to understand not only what people are thinking, but why. It all ties into a topic I have written about in the past – fostering the human element in research. In an earlier article I expressed it this way, “As more and more of the process of conducting research, especially quantitative research and analytics, is shifted to tech-based solutions to answer the ‘who, what, when, where, and how’ of business questions, our view is that researchers will be tasked with answering the ‘why and now what?’ Those are inherently human functions and should stay so.”
And the best way to understand the “why” is through face-to-face focused interviews through focus groups – where “consumers,” “users/non-users,” and “target audiences” become “people.” After all, it is people who are loyal to brands and buy their products, and unless we consider the whole person and what makes them tick on a personal level, we may miss the mark. And missing the mark at any stage of a product’s creation and development can be fatal in the marketplace.
Focus groups function as an essential tool in allowing brands to understand how people experience their products (CX) as well as to invite discussion on what people think of them – what they would like to see, what can be improved, what is working, what is not (VOC). Insights gathered through focus groups (and other methods as well) are especially helpful in creating benchmarks for setting up company Voice of the Customer Programs to foster brand loyalty and customer satisfaction, ultimately impacting the bottom line.
CX is the journey that impacts every aspect of the buying cycle, and one that can make or break a company’s marketing success. It is essential that testing take place every step along the way, with customers weighing in on what they want, and why. Focus groups are an excellent way to gain valuable insights on both.
The focus group is an integral player in decision-making at every stage of product development. From Ideation, Concept, Development, Launch, and Post-Launch, and every sub-phase along the way, focus groups are instrumental in understanding how your concept and developing product will be received and whether it is in line – and stays in line – with your customer’s needs.
Of course, there are many other excellent testing methods that are used hand-in-hand with focus group research, including both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Leveraging a combination of qual and quant tools produces a rich, multi-faceted, and detailed understanding of your market and customers.
FPG offers a comprehensive array of methods that ensure our clients’ success in the marketplace, from in-person research (focus groups, IDIs, ethnographies, jury studies), online qual (webcam interviews, bulletin boards, communities), quant research (surveys & polls, CLTs, product placements, ad labs), to emerging tools including the Gauge mobile app, online product reviews, and mobile video capture. Whether in-person or online, our goal is always to provide our clients with trustworthy data and an excellent, people-powered research experience. After all, marketing research is all about people and the insights they bring to us through thoughtful dialog.