Focus Groups Versus In-Depth Interviews (And The Pros and Cons of Each)

On one hand we have focus groups and the other in-depth interviews (IDIs). While it's common to have a research project that utilizes both of these qualitative research methodologies, those with tighter purse strings are posed with a choice.

So let's start with qualitative (qual) market research in general. Why would you choose qual in the first place?

Qualitative research is great for exploring why. It's used to open up conversation with a particular audience of interest. The conversation typically begins more general and becomes more in-depth and specific. On the other hand, quantitative research is a powerful way to measure and define specific factors.

Want to know why? Well, then qual is for you.

Focus Groups Versus In-Depth Interviews (And The Pros and Cons of Each)

Unsure what your customers want? Open dialogue with qualitative research.

Why Focus Groups?

Focus groups bring people with similar traits together to discuss a specific topic.

Let's say for example, that a cereal company is developing a new cereal targeted to women who are concerned about eating healthy, nutritious food. A focus group would gather a group of 12 to 14 individuals who fit that target audience to discuss attitudes about choosing a cereal, key factors that affect the purchase decision, taste testing the new cereal, etc. The session lasts 90 minutes and is led by a focus group moderator who guides the discussion from start to finish to ensure the conversation stays on topic and on track with the client's needs.

Bring everyone to the table with focus groups

The Pros of Focus Groups

The beauty of focus groups is that a group of targeted individuals are brought together to communicate with each other on a specific topic. This two-way communication between the moderator and all participants opens up a group discussion that oftentimes leads to clear direction and insight to heighten success.

Another pro of focus groups is that the client is able to actually see the focus group happen. Not a lot of research methodologies gives this inside look while research is being conducted. A mark of a good moderator is that they will periodically check in with the clients during the focus group to ensure their needs are being met.

Also, online focus groups are becoming a more cost-effective way to gather a group of individuals together. While the ability for in-person topics to be discussed are limited, such as in-person taste testing, online focus groups still offer benefits of having interaction and communication through a guided conversation in a less expensive and less time-intensive fashion.

The Cons of Focus Groups

Typically, focus groups come at a higher cost, more so if it's in-person. For a 2 hour focus group with general consumers, you can expect to pay roughly $100 to $200 dollars to each individual for participating. Focus group honorariums depend on a variety of factors such as time of day, length of the focus group, type of individual, amount of travel, etc. Having in-person focus groups also requires a focus group room, client viewing room, waiting room, refreshments, and more which drive up cost.

Having focus groups online, however, eliminates some of this cost. As discussed previously, this can inhibit some of the benefits of an in-person discussion.

Looking for more on focus groups? Check out this case study with Syracuse Athletics.

Why In-Depth Interviews (IDIs)?

Hoping to speak with target individuals one on one? Then IDIs are for you.

For this example, let's say that two trendy online clothing brands have decided to merge together, but they are wondering how the merger and name change will affect customers. The new clothing company decides to hold IDIs with 10 customers, 5 from one brand and 5 from the other brand.

Topics covered in the interview range from current attitudes towards the brand, future attitudes towards the merged brand, etc. The interviews last 30 minutes via phone and are led by a research interviewer.

Dive deeper with IDIs

The Pros of IDIs

IDIs have a cost advantage. Since they can typically be done by phone, are shorter, and can require fewer participants, IDIs can quickly become less expensive than traditional focus groups.

Without the need for a facility and participant travel time, focus group rental fees are erased (as long as the IDIs do not need to be conducted in-person). Also, since IDIs use fewer participants and the actual interview is shorter than a focus group, the honorariums are less and can range from $50 to $100.

Another benefit of IDIs is that the conversation is customized to each participant. While the research interviewer follows the same conversation guide for each participant, the researcher can dive deeper into specific topics where the participant is more knowledgeable and/or has a stronger opinion.

The moderator gets to spend 30 minutes with each participant having a tailored conversation. Whereas in a 90-minute focus group, those 90 minutes are divided among 12 participants. You guessed it, that's only 7.5 minutes per respondent (on average).

The Cons of IDIs

Since IDIs do not put participants together, the advantages of having communication and interaction between participants is lost. Focus groups are unique in that it beings everyone to the same table to discuss a topic and shares cross-talk with a group.

Not having that face-to-face interaction is a deterrent. Some moderators choose to do these via Skype or Google video so they can at least see the respodnent and his or her reactions.

Also, since IDIs are conducted 1 on 1, clients do not get access to an inside look at the research being conducted as they do with focus groups. In some instances clients do sit in a facility if the interviewers are completed in-person. They watch the conversations much like a focus group.

You want more, right? Here's more information about IDI services offered by Drive Research.

Contact Drive Research

Heard of our team yet? Drive Research is a market research company in New York, and we are committed to challenging the market research industry status quo.

Have questions for our team? Looking for qualitative research services, quantitative research services, or both? All you have to do is ask!

Call us at 315-303-2040 or send us an email at [email protected].

Focus Groups