Focus groups are likely the most common form of qualitative market research. They involve a group discussion led by a moderator or facilitator who guides the dialogue. The moderator typically uses a guide to help section out the discussion. This usually includes an introduction, warm-up, and several other sections.
The optimal length of a focus group is a frequent question in market research. The majority of focus groups you encounter last between 60-minutes and 120-minutes (2-hours). There are several advantages and disadvantages to shorter and longer focus groups.
This piece will cover some of the highlights to help you make a choice on the best length for a a focus group. It is highly dependent on your needs and objectives.
Searching for the best length for a focus group? You've come to the right market research website. Here we cover the pros and cons to shorter and longer focus groups.
Option 1: 60-Minute
The biggest advantage of running short focus groups of 60-minutes each is you are able to host several groups in one evening or 1-day. With longer sessions you may only be able to host 2 sessions whereas you can host 4 in the same timeframe with shorter groups. This allows for a wider array of participants and more representation from your target audience.
Another advantage here is engagement from participants. We've all seen it. Even the best moderators have to grapple with a tired group in the last 30 minutes of a focus group that ends at 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. Shorter groups largely eliminate this exhaustion because they move extremely fast. Participants do not experience any fatigue.
Finally, the last advantage is lower rewards. Whereas you might be on the hook for $100 to $200 with a consumer group that lasts 2 hours, you may be able to do $50 or $75 for a 60-minute group depending on the audience. Less time equals less payout.
Shorter or mini-focus groups of 4 to 6 people are growing in the industry. It allows more exposure and time-per-participant for the moderator and client viewers. Splitting 60-minutes among 10 to 12 participants becomes much more difficult.
This is the standard length of a focus group. If you were to inventory all of the focus groups being conducted across the U.S. last month, the majority would be in the 2-hour range. The reason is they offer the ability to cover a lot of content. Even with a 15-minute introduction and 10-minute wrap-up that is still 95 minutes available to cover core objectives. Great for the market research firm, not always great for the participants.
Many moderators prefer this length because it gives them the opportunity to get participants warmed up, helps them build rapport, and gets them into a rhythm in the last hour to pull out insights. This length requires hire payout and often leads to a little fatigue towards the end of the group.
Rewards for a 2-hour focus group start at $75 to $100 minimum for a B2C group.
Recommended: 90 Minutes
At Drive Research, we've seen a lot of success with 90-minute focus groups. They offer the flexibility to host 3 groups in one evening (5:00, 6:30, and 8:00 p.m.) They also offer ample time for the moderator to build rapport with participants before getting to the most important parts of the discussion. More so than anything else, this length limits respondent fatigue and keeps participants engaged, even in the waning moments of the focus group. We believe in quality of discussion over quantity in many cases, particularly with focus groups.
Contact Drive Research
Drive Research is a qualitative research firm located in Syracuse, NY. We specialize in both qualitative and quantitative research including focus group services. Our focus group services include recruitment, hosting, moderating, and reporting.
Questions about an upcoming focus group project or need advice? Contact us below: