3 Alternatives to Focus Groups in Market Research

When conducting market research, you are never short of options. Each methodology has its own pros and cons.

In this case, you likely stumbled upon this blog post because you are searching for an alternative to in-person focus groups. Lucky for you, our market research company has three of them!

In this blog post, Drive Research will discuss why online focus groups, in-depth interviews, and phone surveys may be more viable options for your team.

3 Alternatives to Focus Groups in Market Research


Alternative to Focus Groups #1: Online Focus Groups

Over the past few years, online focus groups have taken the market research industry by storm. They carry many of the same benefits of a traditional focus group however, the group discussions are all conducted remotely.

Lower costs.

The reason some organizations are turning to online focus groups as an alternative to in-person focus groups is that they are highly cost-effective.

For instance, there are zero costs associated with renting a facility such as fees for the room, food and beverage, and on-site staff.

Easier recruitment.

Perhaps the greatest advantage our market research company finds with online focus groups is having greater access to quality participants.  

For example, a national shoe brand is in the process of designing their Spring 2021 collection but first wants to conduct a focus group to gain feedback from target consumers.

As a result, they contact their local focus group company in Syracuse, New York to recruit and host the group discussions.

The shoe brand shares that all participants must be Black males, aged 18 to 25, and have purchased shoes in the past 6 months.

Because the focus group company is limited by the potential qualifying sample living in the Syracuse designated market area, the recruitment costs will be higher.

A more cost-effective alternative to this scenario is online focus groups. If the shoe brand conducted the focus groups remotely, the market research company can find qualified participants from across the country.

The sample becomes dramatically higher, therefore costs to conduct market research become lower.

Have more questions about remote focus groups? Our market research company answers them all in our Ultimate Guide to Online Focus Groups.


Alternative to Focus Groups #2: In-Depth Interviews

Although online focus groups are a viable alternative, some organizations prefer to conduct qualitative research in-person. That is totally understandable!

Our market research firm believes in the power of insights collected through nonverbal cues. This form of communication can be limited when the research is conducted through the phone or a webcam.

In this instance, another option to consider rather than in-person focus groups are in-depth interview (IDIs).

IDIs are similar to focus groups in that researchers are able to have in-depth conversations with customers or target consumers.

Instead of hosting a group discussion, IDIs involve speaking with one participant at a time. Each IDI is led by a trained interviewer where they moderate a 20 to 30-minute conversation.

Eliminating group bias.

The benefit of one-on-one interviews over focus groups is the elimination of group bias. It can be common in a focus group to have a few outspoken participants who take charge of the conversation.

This can create an intimidating setting to soft-spoken participants who do not want to go against the majority and share a different perspective or opinion. Some may nod their head in agreement even if it is not how they feel.

On the contrary, in-depth interviews are a more personable setting where people can feel more comfortable sharing thoughts, emotions, and feelings on a given topic.

There is no fear of being ostracized because there is no one to argue their statements.

For this reason, IDIs can be especially beneficial when conducting market research on a sensitive topic such as financial struggles, medical issues, or personal loss.

Here are 7 questions to ask yourself when deciding whether your organization should conduct focus groups or in-depth interviews.


Alternative to Focus Groups #3: Phone Surveys

The next alternate market research option to focus groups are phone surveys. Phone surveys are a similar approach to in-depth interviews, except not conducted in-person.

This methodology allows organizations to collect in-depth feedback that can be lacking in email or online surveys.

The good news.

If you like the idea of conducting individual interviews with target consumers, but also want to speak to participants across multiple geographies – then phone surveys are a great option.

Additionally, phone surveys can be conducted with participants anywhere. I do not only mean across state lines but also where a participant feels most comfortable.

For instance, in-depth interviews are often conducted at a market research facility – whereas phone surveys allow scheduled participants to provide feedback from their homes, office, etc.

This personal setting can make the study seem more natural than a sit-down interview. The more comfortable a market research participant is, the more likely they are to provide quality and honest feedback.

The bad news.

The downside to phone surveys is that it is a more costly methodology.

Think about the time differences in hosting a 90-minute focus group with 10 participants vs. a 30 to 60-minute phone survey with each participant individually. As a result, reporting and project management costs can increase as well.

With that being said, if you are trying to choose between in-person interviews and phone surveys – then phone surveys would be the more cost-effective option. Your organization can likely save money on honorariums, any travel costs, or facility rental fees.


Can’t Decide What Methodology is Best? Contact Our Team

Drive Research is a full-service market research company. Our team executes both qualitative and quantitative research studies for clients across the country.

If your team is having a hard time choosing a methodology that is best for your goals and objectives, we can help. Drive Research can offer our expert recommendations, costs, and processes for each service.

Contact our team to get started.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

emily carroll about the author

Emily Carroll

A SUNY Cortland graduate, Emily has taken her passion for social and content marketing to Drive Research as the Marketing Coordinator. She has earned certificates for both Google Analytics and Google AdWords.

Learn more about Emily, here.


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