NEWS18 March 2022

Combining face-to-face and online focus groups can reap benefits

Behavioural science Impact 2022 News Trends UK

 UK – Combining face-to-face and online focus groups within the same project can lead to boundless opportunities, says a leading market research executive.

Peter Totman

Peter Totman, (pictured) head of qualitative at Jigsaw Research, gave a presentation called The Zoom group fantasy at the MRS Impact 2022 conference, asking some tough questions about qualitative online research.

The session was based on input from researchers, clients and participants and compared the advantages and disadvantages of online and face-to-face interview groups.

Comparing the advantages of the two methodologies, Totman said research showed that participants in the online groups found “there is more time online to collect your thoughts and structure them” while another said “you can actually get a word in” while in the face-to-face group it is the “mouthy types” who tend to dominate.

The findings also showed that face-to-face groups were “much more of an event” but online “does seem to open up the world of quals for introverts” who feel like they are getting a say.

Comparing the methodologies from a researcher’s point of view, Totman said the researchers felt online groups were “less spontaneous’ and there was a “risk of just another Zoom meeting” for those leading and participating in the group.

“There is a challenge online of getting a sense of presence, getting people to feel in the moment,” Totman said.

Totman noted that in the post-pandemic world there was perhaps “an opportunity for us to create a qualitative industry that is better in all sorts of ways”. He said it was a “balancing act” but combining the virtues of online, such as being more inclusive, and face-to-face, like nurturing creative development, could reap benefits.

“We can start using those methodologies in the same project to meet different objectives – there are a hundred possibilities here. We might want to get a representative view of the entire population by making sure everyone has a voice by doing online sessions to start with. But then we might want a more creative take and to build the brand we have a second stage that is face to face.”

Furthermore by combing the two, researchers and participants could also have a more balanced life, he added. “If we have these two different methodologies and they both have a distinct role, then we can use both at different times. We will have a better balance in life, if not a completely balanced life.”