Focus groups have been around for years and continue to provide valuable consumer insights especially in the food and beverage industry. If your company or client is developing a marketing plan and looking for market research, consider incorporating focus groups into your plan. Focus groups are a cost-effective way to understand your customers’ thought process and offer valuable information about customer attitudes and their perceptions about the business and its products or services, according to Fortune.
To provide an expert perspective on the evolution of focus groups and how they can add value to your clients and business, I’ve asked Dan Reilly, vice president, Client Services, SMS Research Advisors, to weigh in.
What is the value of conducting focus groups?
In a focus group setting, you can hear directly from the consumer and collect voice of the customer (VOC) data. Focus groups are particularly valuable because not only can you ask questions real-time, but you can also show the participants stimuli, and then see and understand their reactions to it. There are opportunities to ask follow-up questions based on their responses, which is not always the case in a survey or other electronic means of assessing consumer insights. These interactive sessions can be key to informing the direction of your marketing efforts.
How can focus groups add value specifically to food clients and brands?
It is imperative clients know how packaging affects the entire product experience. Having participants interact with the packaging and then hearing their emotional response is a valuable thing to experience. It is also critical for food clients to understand what is driving consumer purchasing behavior. For example, are they impacted by what they see on social media, in-store advertising, interactive experiences, etc. Determining these factors will help you optimize your marketing strategies so you can effectively and efficiently reach consumers through channels that will most impact their purchasing decisions. Another example is taste testing. Food clients love to see how consumers react to their new recipes, flavors or formulations. There is also ad testing, which is not specific to food clients but can provide significant value because of the investment the client makes in advertising.
How have focus groups evolved over the last decade?
When the marketing field was conducting focus groups 10 years ago, we were doing a lot of consumer-packaged goods groups and asking for reactions to household items among people who did most of the shopping in the household. Now, we are seeing an increase in B2B focus groups with key decision-makers. Additionally, more complex exercises are being performed in focus groups. For example, 10 years ago, we’d show some stimuli to the participants, get their reactions and call it a day. Today, consumers’ sophistication has evolved in how they purchase certain products, so we are constantly developing new exercises to elicit the most powerful insights. Looking ahead to the future of focus groups, expect a rise in online focus groups. As the price comes down and technology evolves, we will see a significant shift toward these types of focus groups.
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