Focus group is a form of a survey, otherwise called “group interview”. In case of a personal interview, certain people are interviewed during a quantitative research. During a group interview, several people are interviewed, which is a cased of a qualitative research.
When entering a market or planning the product development, without a clear idea of the market, focus groups are held for the purpose of obtaining the first impression of the consumers' behavior.
Development of new products starts from focus groups, followed by the quantitative research in the form of surveys, experiments, observations, etc.
The method of focus groups, like other qualitative methods of the research, allows finding the answers to the question “Why?” – i.e., “Why do people act like this?”, “Why do they choose these products?”, “Why do they like this advertising?”, etc.
Thus, this method is used during studying the consumers' motivation, models of consumer behavior, value orientations, models of selection, and during studying the creative concepts.
A focus group study is the most popular qualitative method of information selection. The term “focus group” is a short form for “focused interview”, offered by Robert K. Merton and Patricia L.Kendall in 1946. After that, the representatives of various sociological schools treated the peculiarities of this method in a different way. However, certain approaches and principles remain stable. According to T. Greenbaum – the author of the book on focus groups which is popular in the Western countries – the studies of this type include four common elements:
Involvement of several respondents, gathered in one place. Interaction of the participants. While in other types of the research any discussion between the participants distorts the purity of answers, the subjects in focus groups are motivated for interaction with each other.
The course of the discussion is conducted by a professional moderator. He guides the course of the group discussion according to the goals set at the preliminary stage.
A scenario is used during focus groups. While during the quantitative study, collection of information supposes the usage of the finished, formalized, and structured tools, the guide has a form of unfinished thing. Its main purpose is to focus the problem and set a certain topic. It also has to enable the spontaneous ideas of the participants to ensure the group dynamics.
Another peculiarity is that this type of research differs from other group methods – e.g., from the Delphi method and “brain storm”. The latter are formed from the experts and are oriented at the development of recommendations and coordinated decisions. Focus groups are aimed for another thing – determination of a specter of opinions on the studied problem and the search for people's behavior in certain spheres.
The effectiveness of focus groups is determined by the fact that most people feel comfortable during the discussion as a part of the group. During the right realization of the method, better possibilities for deeper information than during individual interviews appear. At the same time, the group dynamics allows for determination of the significance of such phenomenon as group influence.