The Magic of In-Person Research

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups, Research |

Sep

16

2011

The Internet feels like it’s changing everything and social media is amazing.  There’s literally a conversation happening 24-7 about anything you can think of.  People share viewpoints in endless streams, and now even market research turns to the web for consumer insights.  Some even question why would anyone go to all the trouble and expense of having an in-person focus group.

Here’s what I think:  For the same reason you go to all the trouble and expense of visiting your family or traveling to a foreign city in person.  Even though it’s far away and costs a lot of money and you have to take off work and hire someone to walk the dog and water the plants, ultimately there’s still no substitute for being there.

It’s true that online research has advantages.  It’s versatile, people answer questions when they’re ready and they’re relaxed.  It’s anonymous, so people are more open and candid.  And for some people, like business travelers who are too busy traveling to come to a focus group, it’s perfect.

But there are just some pieces of an in-the-flesh, face-to-face interactions that can’t be duplicated online.

When I lead focus groups in person, we work with lots of creative approaches and projective techniques to unlock people’s insights:  like creating art projects and playing with beautifully made toy animals that release inhibitions and free the imagination.  There’s power when people interact with other on a projective technique that brings us farther than we would have imagined.  And then there’s body language.  Depending on whom you ask, body language is estimated to account for 65 to 95 percent of communication. That’s a lot of communication you lose via the Internet.

I love having the online research.  And I love the fact that it’s not the only option.


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