A Focus on Focus Groups

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Published March 26th, 2020

Why Perform a Focus Group Discussion?

Unlike surveys and polls, focus groups discussions tend to capture deep and more personal responses from consumers rather than purely quantifiable data. Focus group discussions are facilitated by researchers and marketers and are ideally conducted in small groups consisting of 4 to 8 participants.. The researcher or interviewer poses questions to expose respondents to a more open discussion about their insights, motivations, reasons and preferences. This strategy can be used by market research teams and is best applied when conducting food taste surveys, product analysis, and service evaluation and reviews.

Understanding why consumers choose certain products or brands can be a challenge. However, focus groups are a handy tool to help companies explore this and similar questions. This article will explain how businesses can benefit from focus groups, provide tips on conducting effective discussions, help you know the right questions to ask, and recommend tools to capture significant research data.

Survey vs. Focus Group Discussion (FGD)?

If SURVEYS tell us that 78% of the middle aged women prefer drinking X milk, FOCUS GROUPS help us understand why 78% of the middle aged women prefer X milk above other milk brands.

Surveys capture quantitative data while focus groups explore qualitative and other influencing factors. Focus groups can be used to uncover the reasons driving people to make a certain decision. As in the example above, middle aged women may be attracted to drink milk X due to factors such as price and quality, or other factors like celebrity endorsement.

How to Conduct an Effective Focus Group Discussion?

Here are 4 ways to get started with your focus group discussion:

  1. Plan before you proceed.
    • Establish a specific goal – e.g. What is driving 78% of middle aged women to purchase milk X above other brands?
    • Conduct research beforehand – e.g. Evaluate milk X product, pricing, promotions, packaging, and competitive landscape.
  2. Find the right audience.
    • Who is our target audience? e.g. Middle aged women between 45 – 65 years of age in country Y who have previously purchased milk X.
    • How can we get a small focus group of 4 to 8 target participants? e.g. Online newsletters, telephone outreach, or ask participants outside a grocery store.
  3. Ask the essential questions.
    • Carefully choose questions which can prompt more meaningful conversations. Choose engaging and open-ended questions over simple “yes” or “no” close-ended questions.

      Ask open ended-questions – e.g. Why do you choose milk X over other brands?
      Use probing questions – eg. When you think about the milk X product, what was the first thing that comes into your mind?
      Use prompts and follow up questions – e.g. You mentioned that you like the packaging of milk X. What do you associate with the appearance of the packaging?

  4. Listen and document it well.
    • Pay attention to highlights of the discussion – e.g. Listen out for motivations, biases, previous experiences, tone and also observe nonverbal cues.
    • Document it well – e.g. Use a mobile data-gathering tool like iAuditor to record the focus group discussion.


Conducting focus groups can help uncover underlying motivating factors of consumer behavior. This arms businesses with qualitative data to improve and adapt their product and service offering. Browse these free digital focus group templates you can use to conduct your next focus group discussions.


Erick Brent Francisco

SafetyCulture staff writer

As a staff writer for SafetyCulture, Erick is interested in learning and sharing how technology can improve work processes and workplace safety. Prior to SafetyCulture, Erick worked in logistics, banking and financial services, and retail.