Survey Research or Focus Groups?

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Market Research has always been an important component of business strategy and an organized effort to gather information about consumers’ needs, wants, and habits; market trends; and competition.  Market Research is an overall great business function to help answer questions that influence business decision-making. In order to be a successful company, businesses have used Market Research to develop business decisions that, when implemented correctly, generate a considerable return on investment (ROI).

There are two widespread methods of Market Research, which are Survey Research and Focus Groups; both of which have their own benefits and weaknesses.

  • Survey Research – Surveys can be more cost effective and provide more quantifiable data that can be easily analyzed, but are less personal or interactive.
  • Focus Groups – Focus groups tend to encourage good discussions, but can be time consuming and costly, plus create qualitative data that can be harder to analyze.

Reliability is a key factor in business decision-making. With either method of research, your business will want to make sure that the information collected is going to provide accurate and reliable information in order to make informed business changes and decisions.

So, which method of market research is more reliable? First, let’s breakdown each method. 

Survey Research

Market researchers use survey research to collect the most data possible. Researchers have easy access to respondent samples that represent their consumer base. By choosing a representative sample, researchers can collect quantitative data that is an accurate representation of their consumers. Surveys allow businesses to:

  • gather more candid responses;
  • easily send follow-up messages or emails;
  • yield concrete data, which can be adjusted to account for any underrepresented groups in the consumer base, and;
  • benchmark against previous data or track changes in responses over time, which can lead to further insight into your overall business strategies.

Focus Groups

Market researchers conduct hands-on focus groups, which tend to take place with a much smaller sample size, in an interactive group setting.  While focus groups are an interesting way to share ideas, and express opinions and attitudes; they produce qualitative data, which needs to be coded to organize data and interpret meaningful results. Some factors to consider if you are contemplating using focus groups:

  • Focus groups will rarely be large enough to draw definitive conclusions.
  • Focus groups are a good way to foster open discussions.
  • Focus groups  may uncover an idea that otherwise would have been missed had it not been for the opinions of a focus group
  •  Unfortunately, without the anonymity of a survey, it’s often harder to convince people to freely speak their mind

So, which is more reliable?

If you are simply looking to generate ideas or gather feedback about what consumers think about your products, services, or different business strategies; then focus groups may be useful to your business. However, when it comes to collecting reliable and accurate data, the capabilities of survey research are unrivaled. With survey research, your sample is larger, your respondents tend to provide more open and honest feedback, and the data you collect is concrete and easier to analyze. Focus groups have their place in market research, but surveys offer substantially more meaningful data.

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