Article -> The Evolving Nature of Research
Date Added: November 2006
The technology age has allowed for quicker, better and more efficient means of communication. With the use of the Internet, satellite and cellular phones, people are able to cover vast geographical areas to relay messages within seconds. The problem with this is not the innovative advances these developments offer, the problem is that one crucial item is eliminated – person-to-person interaction.
Personal relationships are the very reason why focus groups, an effective marketing research tool, haven’t become obsolete. Focus groups are a proven marketing research tool that offers the personal interaction between customers and organizations.
Some people question how focus groups, as a concept, can compete in today’s results-driven business world. Internet questionnaires can produce immediate results. Experimental marketing can be more cost effective than conducting focus groups. Despite this, focus groups are changing and evolving to adjust to global marketing trends. Some experts see a slight increase in the use of focus groups, although in a different form. They involve more specific groups of customers and the groups themselves have been taken out of their geographical location.¹
Realistically, questionnaires and focus groups, in conjunction with a fully developed marketing research plan, can prove the most effective for organizations. Integrating qualitative and quantitative strategies into a marketing research plan ultimately will benefit the organization employing these research tactics because it will be able to validate and/or learn new information. Understanding customers and marketing your products and services in a way that appeals to customers will keep them happy while increasing your profitability.
External resources can play an integral role in developing a successful marketing strategy - one that doesn’t overlook the importance of focus groups and research. External advisors can create a process to help guide your organization to understand what makes customers tick, what drives increased profitability and how these relate back to your marketing and business strategy. The strategy that is implemented should be able to adjust to the different marketing trends and the evolution of focus groups.
Some organizations are addressing the geographical barrier that standard focus groups run into by introducing focus groups into the digital era through the use of web cams and digital editing to host “Web focus groups.”¹ The “web focus group” concept not only allows a company based on the East Coast to interact with customers on the West coast without having to send one representative to do the work of an entire marketing team, it also enables more marketing personnel to listen directly to customers’ concerns and desires.
In short, focus groups are not going anywhere. They will likely continue to evolve and take on a more electronic role, and are too effective to lose popularity. Marketing research is just as valuable to an organization’s profitability as its customers are. Customers may drive business, but knowing what customers want and how they feel about the products and services are just as important as the products and services themselves.
¹Gaffney, John. “Have Focus Groups Reached the Tipping Point?” 1to1 Magazine. July/August 2006: 38-39.