Conducting a focus group study can provide insightful marketing research. Brands take the information obtained from the study to improve products or services as well as the overall customer experience (CX).
Keep reading to learn about key factors to consider when choosing a focus group facility.
Not all focus group facilities are created equal. Searching for the right facility for your qualitative market research? Consider these factors.
Factor 1: Recruiting Capabilities
The most important factor to consider when choosing a focus group facility is whether or not the company can also assist with recruiting qualified participants. To do this, provide a list of criteria participants must meet (i.e., product usage, demographics, lifestyle, etc.) If participants do not meet the criteria, the results of the focus group will not be valuable.
Ideally, choose a focus group facility that employs a recruiting team. Having a team dedicated to recruiting ensures everyone is on the same page and all participants are recruited using the same tactics. This avoids you having to use a separate vendor for the facility and a separate vendor for the recruiting which is a project management nightmare.
Qualified recruiters know the right questions to ask candidates. They have the ability to pinpoint which candidates are giving false information during screenings. It is extremely important to recruit candidates who have not participated in another focus group study recently. This is a common problem and those who participate often in studies do not tend to mimic the behavior of a normal customer.
A qualitative recruiting company deploys tactics to ensure there are no repeat respondents. Such tactics include performing second screenings, running candidates' IDs through a software program to validate the information provided on a screening form, and by using the Sigma Validation System. Sigma takes the phone numbers of respondents and cross-checks them for participation in other studies within a certain period of time and geographical location.
Ultimately, brands look for a focus group facility that already has a recruiting strategy in place, especially if it needs participants that require the facility to recruit from outside of their database. A reputable focus group facility has a strategy for external recruiting. Brands simply give them a list of criteria and the facility handles the rest.
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Factor 2: Comfort of the Facility
Another key factor to consider is whether the focus group facility provides a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Look for a focus group facility that greets guests upon entering and escorts them to the focus group suite. Staff members should ask if there is any way they can be of assistance and will make sure guests have everything needed.
Brands also want to choose a focus group facility with a front reception desk. This ensures that if there are any questions throughout the study, guests have a point of contact to reference for answers. The focus group facility should be set up according to the guests’ preferences but also allow guests to make changes as necessary.
Another factor to consider is the actual comfort of the space where the study is hosted. Are the chairs comfortable? Is it easy for all participants to see the moderator? Do participants have room to move around?
Ask the focus group facility manager whether or not the rooms have temperature control and zoning heating and air capabilities. Many clients like to keep the focus group room a bit colder to keep respondents at full attention for the discussion.
So this factor refers to comfort level of the facility and staff you work with. Find a focus group facility where the staff is responsive to your emails and phone calls. This insight will often reflect the on-site experience you will have.
Factor 3: Size of the Facility
Think about the number of participants you will have taking part in the study. This will significantly impact the size of the focus group facility needed. If a conference room need to be large enough to accommodate 30 participants and a focus group facility only offers rooms big enough to accommodate 15, then it is best to keep looking. Do not change the specifics of the study to accommodate the facility if there are other options in the market. Continue looking for one that can accommodate your specifics.
Also in regards to the size of the facility, look for one that provides enough space for display concept boards. Furthermore, if participants will be trying out a new product, brands need to consider whether there is enough room in the study room for product testing.
Also consider space needed for a table of snacks. If space is too limited for this, then the focus group facility will need to provide frequent breaks so participants can leave to get a snack or a drink.
It's usually best to provide a snack area where participants can grab a quick bite to eat before the study, once time during the study, and after the study. However, this all depends on how long the study is going to last. If the study is longer than two hours, the focus group facility will likely suggest providing a full meal for participants.
Make sure the focus group facility room is large enough to accommodate your needs. The best focus group facilities offer movable tables on wheels to configure your group setting in any fashion (conference style, classroom, U-shape, etc.)
Factor 4: Ability to Handle the Unexpected
Be upfront with the focus group facility and ask how it handles projects that do not go as planned. Anything from harsh weather conditions to extreme fluctuations in the economy can impact a study and participants' ability to participate.
What happens if you predicted 50% incidence but it turns out to be 20%? Will the focus group facility have resources to resolve this type of issue? Is the focus group facility going to more than double its price because it has worked to accommodate more than half of the number of participants than what actually showed up?
Also, understand the focus group facility can only plan accordingly to the information, criteria, and specs given. The more information given, the better prepared the focus group facility can be. In fact, if a focus group facility does not ask a ton of questions whet first contacted, this is a sure sign to keep looking.
Looking for a focus group checklist? We’ve got you covered!
Factor 5: Experience with the Study Topic
Keep in mind some focus group facilities do not allow just any type of study to take place. More so, some recruiters become uncomfortable when recruiting participants for a study that has to do with religion or sexuality. Some focus group facilities do not even want to accommodate studies that have to do with alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Brands need to discuss the topic of the study with the focus group facility manager to ensure it is a good fit.
Factor 6: Privacy
Privacy is an important factor to consider when choosing a focus group facility. Will the moderator have a room or workstation to relax in or make personal calls? Are there areas of privacy where participants can go if they need to make personal calls? If the study consists of one-way mirrors, is there a large enough space so that all observers can see through the mirror at the same time?
If the room has soundproofing, how effective is it? Can participants easily hear noises coming from other rooms? A focus group facility manager should be provide a tour of the facility before booking. This will help brands check out soundproofing, one-way mirrors, and remote video transmission features.
Factor 7: Available Equipment
Make sure the focus group facility accommodates any equipment brought to the study. Also, it is important to ask about the various types of equipment that will be provided by the focus group facility.
Are there microphones? Where are these microphones placed? It is always best to ensure microphones and recording equipment are placed away from air conditioners and loud appliances.
Also, ask if the focus group facility is going to check all of the equipment before the study takes place. There is nothing worse than starting the study only to discover a TV monitor or microphone is not working.
Inquire about noise-cancelling audio equipment, HD recording, streaming capabilities to view off-site, and other A/V needs including big screen TVs and laptop connectivity.
Ask about the audio equipment, video equipment, and streaming capabilities.
Factor 8: Location
If participants are flying in or traveling from afar to take place in the study, it is very important to choose a focus group facility that is located near the airport and hotels. The focus group facility should also have connections with local hotels to ensure you obtain discount rates when booking rooms for participants.
Ask if the hotel offers shuttling or transportation to and from the facility. This is key to providing a good experience to participants and moderators. Some focus group studies do not end until 11:00 p.m., so having a room at a nearby hotel and late-night food options is always a plus.
Factor 9: Layout and Abilities
Just because a focus group facility has space to accommodate the number of participants expected does not necessarily make it a good fit. Think about the various specs of the study and then look at the layout of the focus group facility. Does the layout work for your purposes?
Many of today's more reputable focus group facilities allow flexibility with the layout. When reviewing the layout, consider the different parts of the study, including whether you need room to walk around, lay out visuals, pin visuals on the walls, reconfigure table settings, and more. All of these specs will influence the layout of the room needed.