When expanding abroad, it is vital to understand the marketplace you are looking to enter. Whilst taking the time and money to visit a country and conduct face-to-face focus groups is always going to be the optimum method to understand your target customer, competition and cultural nuances – online focus groups are another method of researching your target market. Below is an overview of the potential strengths and weakness of this methodology:
- Time efficient: large quantities of data can be gathered relatively quickly
- Cost efficient: online focus groups can be observed from any location, thus eliminating travel costs
- Accessing respondents: both in terms of difficult to reach groups such as busy professionals, and also geographically – it is relatively simple to conduct multi-market study
- Validity of data: respondents can arguably be more open and honest with their opinions online
- Group interaction: just like a focus group, respondents can interact with each other within an online discussion and a moderator can probe further and ask additional questions as the conversation develops
- Output: detailed, rich and visual data (can include text, images, videos and collages)
- Recruitment: Sample size can be much larger (focus groups are traditionally 6-8)
- Results can be determined quickly
- Testing new concepts: it is not advisable to show respondents confidential images of new product ideas online as these can easily be copied and made public
- Language barrier: in non English speaking countries where those observing cannot speak the language, it would not be possible to watch discussions ‘in-the-moment,’ as translated transcripts would be required
- It is harder to screen participants making it easier for imposters to enter the discussion
- It is more difficult to gauge emotional reactions and non verbal cues, apparent during a focus group, cannot be seen online
- Technological limitations: there can be difficulty accessing certain populations such as older people who are generally less tech savvy and those without a computer or internet connection. In addition, slow modem connections or outdated computer system can cause frustration to respondents.
Whilst there are of course going to be weaknesses to conducting online group discussions, there is no doubt that this methodology (particularly combined with secondary research) is a valuable means to exploring potential markets and understanding your consumer, prior to expanding globally and creating your ‘go-to-strategy’.
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