Companies need to know not only what consumers buy but also why they buy. Qualitative research is also known as motivational study, which is more about observing and listening to people in a friendly environment, such as a group meeting or an individual interview and not so much direct questions. Quantitative techniques are often ineffective to obtain quality answers to certain questions as would be the case of what motivates a consumer to buy a certain product or service and why he rejects such and such brands. With a structured questionnaire, we would only obtain “obvious” answers since consumers’ behavior to some extent, is unconscious. A more open approach, more flexible, interactive and with open questions allows a better understanding of the consumers’ behavior in order to develop more efficient marketing strategies.
Some cases in which qualitative research is particularly effective:
– Advertising campaign pre-test before launching: is the message the company wants to transmit adequately decoded? Is it attractive? Does the public feel identified with it?
– Before a quantitative research, we carry out an exploratory investigation of the market of which we know nothing. This previous qualitative stage is useful in order to define what we want to quantify in the survey.
– Before launching a new concept of product, we test its viability. Is there a need for this? Does the will to satisfy it really exist? Does this product completely satisfy it?
– To know the positioning of a brand and its competitors. Which are the attributes a consumer appreciates for a certain range of products? Which are the strong and the weak points of the different brands regarding these attributes?
What is a focus group and what it is good for
Focus groups are one of the qualitative research methods by which a group of people is assembled in order to inquire about attitudes and reactions regarding a product, a service, a brand, an advertisement, or a combination of all. The questions are answered by the group interaction in a dynamics where the participants are at ease and feel free to talk and express themselves.
The group sessions are a fundamental tool to have feedback on different issues regarding the marketing mix. They are particularly used to identify wishes, needs, fantasies, prejudices, motivations, that is to say the “what” and the “why”.
The analysis in this kind of research is usually complex since it depends on the communication styles and the non verbal reactions of the participants. It is therefore that highly trained professionals are required for the group moderation and the results’ analysis. All these groups in RADAR are moderated by specialized psychologists, both in marketing and in group dynamics.
A “script” containing all the issues which should be addressed is developed together with the client for the group sessions. It is not a questionnaire with direct questions but a simple manual which help guide the dialogue. The group composition will depend on the characteristics of the Objective Market. For example 30 to 45 year old women of medium-low socioeconomic status, who decide what is bought for the house, who usually consume a certain product of a certain brand. These are usually 8 to 10 participant sessions and last from 1 to 2 hours.
The client may watch the sessions from an adjacent room by means of a Gesell Camera (unidirectional mirror) or a closed TV circuit. These sessions are usually recorded in a video in order to analyze them.
Our researchers will not only examine the spoken words. They will also interpret the facial expressions, the corporal language and the group dynamics. Moderators usually employ projective techniques including free associations, story creation, personifications and role play.
How are the group-participants recruited?
Participant recruitment is one of the key points of the investigation and has to be rigorously performed since the reliability of the results obtained will depend on this. For this purpose, Grupo RADAR has a team of surveyors who have been trained and are supervised by us. The fact that we do not hire third parties for the recruitment and group coordination allows us to significantly increase the investigation reliability.
Participant selection is made through a special questionnaire that takes into account the requirements needed to form part of a group. This is necessary in order to guarantee the homogeneity of the groups and to ensure that the differences observed between them can be attributed to the already studied variables and not to other reasons
We pay special attention to the fact that the members of a group do not know each other, that they have no family bonds with company employees, that they do not work in anything related to the issue of the study (nor do any of their family members), that they have not participated in other groups during the past six months. In order to achieve this, the recruiters fill in a form for each potential participant. In this form, the client is not identified but the potential participant is asked if he (or his direct family) works in any of the activities listed (companies related to the study in course will appear in this list amongst others).
By no means will the recruiter know the identity of the client in order to avoid results being skewed and to achieve greater spontaneity in the opinions expressed during the group sessions.
Grupo Radar does not use data bases to recruit discussion group participants so as to avoid the participation of “focus groups professionals” who distort the group dynamics.
All the group sessions are totally recorded and literally transcribed. The result interpretation is done by means of the “Content Analysis” technique. Therefore, it is essential to have the exact transcription of all that was said by the participants during the investigation.
Minigroups operate the same way as focus groups. The difference is that the number of participants is smaller (4 to 6 persons).
These minigroups are used to investigate certain publics or specific issues, when it is difficult to bring together a larger group or to achieve an adequate interaction between the participants, or when technical aspects are being investigated. For example:
- Agricultural machinery with farmers
- Doctors to investigate their prescription habits
Occasionally, these minigroups can operate in a company, in a family house or in a trendy Bar.
In-depth interviews are applicable when it is impossible to form a group due to the investigated target specifications: opinion leaders, businessmen, political leaders, professionals, etc.
Individual interviews are also used for sensitive issues with which the participants would not feel comfortable expressing their opinions or talking about their experiences before other people or if there is the risk that participants would only say “what should be” and not what they effectively do, think or feel.