Description: A focus group is useful in analysing a topic or getting an opinion on a predetermined topic for research. The information collected is used in making refinements to the product. With the help of focus groups, a company can collect information pertaining to what different groups or a set of people feel about a particular topic or a product. Feedback is collected from a set of people in case the company plans to change the appearance or the quality of a product and it wants to get the first reaction from different sets of people as to what they think, focus groups help the company to do just that. Based on the responses, the company can quickly analyse if people in the group like the refined product or not. They could also track the consumption patterns by asking them if they would increase the consumption once the refined product is introduced in the market. Focus groups can vary in size, depending on the issue, problem or the product that needs to be discussed. But, ideally it should be between 8-12 people.

Definition: A focus group is a small set of six to ten people who usually share common characteristics such as age, background, geography, etc.. The set comes together to discuss a predetermined topic. A focus group is a part of marketing research technique.

What is a Focus Group?

A focus group is a market research method that brings together 6-10 people in a room to provide feedback regarding a product, service, concept, or marketing campaign. A trained moderator leads a 30-90-minute discussion within the group that is designed to gather helpful information. The moderator arrives with a set list of 10-12 questions that will be shared with the group during their time together that are designed to elicit thoughtful responses from all the participants. The moderator’s goal is to hear from everyone and to encourage many different opinions and ideas to be shared.

Focus group participants are recruited based on their purchase history, demographics, psychographics, or behavior and typically do not know each other. To ensure that the maximum number of different ideas or reactions have been captured from participants, companies typically hold several focus groups, often in different cities; 3-4 is common.

While participants are responding to a moderator question, the moderator and/or other observers take notes.


Formerly referred to as “focused interviews,” focus groups were first used during World War II to assess reactions to radio programming. Today the technique has been expanded to evaluate consumer perceptions and reactions.

Focus Group Format

During the focus group, the moderator takes participants through three different types of questions designed to gather as much information from them as possible. They include:

  • Engagement questions. These are easy questions posed early on to introduce the participants to each other, to make them more at ease, and to familiarize them with the topic to be discussed, whether it’s reacting to a new ad campaign for coffee or thinking about self-driving cars.
  • Exploration questions. Once participants have begun to relax and open up in the group, the moderator begins to ask deeper, probing questions about the topic and how the participants feel about it. These might include, “What makes you say that?” “and “What would be a better solution?”
  • Exit questions. After the moderator is confident the group has shared all that it can, wrap-up questions are posed to confirm that everything has been said. These might include, “Is there anything I haven’t asked that I should have?”


Focus groups are one type of market research method that are popular because they:

  • Are generally lower cost than other methods
  • Can generate results very quickly
  • Are easy to conduct
  • Can supplement verbal responses with body language and other non-verbal cues
  • Information gathered is in respondents’ own words, which is more accurate
  • Technique is flexible and can be adjusted based on group behavior


Because a focus group involves multiple participants, the downsides of using this technique are generally related to the interactions between participants:

  • Participants can be influenced by others in the group
  • Domineering participants can skew the results
  • Results from a small group can’t always be generalized to a larger population

Types of Focus Groups

Within the general category of focus groups are more specific types of groups that are designed for different scenarios. Some of these include:

  • Mini focus groups. Fewer participants are used, bringing the number down from 6-12 to four or five consumers.
  • Online focus groups. Consumers log into a website using video chat and participate remotely.
  • Two-way focus group. Focus groups are often conducted behind one-way glass, where researchers can take note of what’s going on. In these types of groups, the whole group watches another and comments on what they observe and hear.
  • Dual moderator focus group. Instead of one moderator in the room, there are two – one to facilitate the discussion and the other to take notes.
  • Client participant focus group. When a representative of the company or product being studied watches or participates in the discussion.

In terms of collecting qualitative data from multiple respondents, focus groups are a popular market research tool.

How focus groups are helping companies like HDFC Bank, Godrej Tyson Foods, Britannia

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” That was Steve Jobs, back in 1998, just before Apple launched the hugely successful iPod. If Jobs’ statement had a touch of swagger to it — much like everything Apple — his words were prescient. A decade-and-a-half later, creatives and marketers are coming face-to-face with the decline of one of the most preferred qualitative measurement tools. As consumers get smart ..

Leo Burnett’s CCO KV Sridhar says wryly, “Everyone wants to come for a shoot with Amitabh Bachchan. But try getting them to show up for discussion on the same film in a small town and they’ll immediately talk about how there are no direct flights and only poor accommodation options.” For too many clients, the group is a box that needs to be ticked. It becomes less about uncovering insights and more about playing safe, claiming a course of action was ratified by research. And so, in this as in so .

The Dubious Wisdom of Crowds

Focus groups may be the most popular mode of qualitative research, but things can get hilariously out of hand

“Focus groups are sometimes like award jury members: if one dumb guy doesn’t get it the entire group gets muddled. Once we tested an ad where someone attempts suicide and from the time of him jumping off a building till he falls there is a courier company that delivers a safety net. It was trying to demonstrate the criticality and speed in a hyperbolic way. They never got the connect. They said “Woh toh mar jata tha.” (He would’ve died.) The van was painted in brand colours and they said it should’ve been an ambulance to help the guy.”

“A focus group in Egypt we once conducted bombed because of one incident. A group of female smokers included some non-smokers (of course, a wrong recruitment). We ended up asking all the women to smoke. The non smokers were also made to carry a pack of 10 with lighters. The moment we asked them to smoke, a nonsmoker actually held the cigarette the wrong way — filter ahead and tobacco end in mouth and started praying! “I am sorry Allah to commit this crime, I know it is haram.” We cancelled the whole group before she could light up. In the end, all we got were a few belly laughs at her expense.