Skip to main content

Susan Abbott on Focus Groups

On her Customer Experience Crossroads blog, Susan Abbott writes about focus groups and other market research methods. She links to this piece in the New York Times pointing to a growing view that focus groups are not very effective. Abbott's take on the issue seems to be that focus groups often have limited effectiveness, but that in some situations they are useful.

Here are some key excerpts from Abbott's entry:

"The best surveys build on insights gathered using qualitative methods."

"[C]onsumers are not experts on their own consumption patterns. If you want consumption patterns, you get shopping data from AC Nielson or a competitor. Or you ask people to keep a consumption diary. You study your own sales data. There are many methods."

"The focus group was responsible for gazillions of insights that have improved all our lives in the past fifty years or so. However the term itself has become imprecise and almost meaningless outside the professional research community."

"The focus group is not the only tool, and not even the only tool available for qualitative insights. Just like a construction project, you need the right tool for the job. But even the right tool, in unskilled hands, will not build you a house."

I agree with Abbott, but I worry that executives are too quick to use focus groups to the exclusion of other methods.


Popular posts from this blog

What Product Managers Can Learn from the Apple iPod

The Story When Apple unveiled its iPod digital music player back in October 2001, I dismissed it as a  parity product . I already owned the Cowon iAUDIO CW100 MP3 player, loaded with my favorite tunes. There was Apple, generating great hype over the iPod as if it were a breakthrough product. The idea of a portable digital music player was nothing new. The first mass-produced MP3 players came out in 1998. In late 2001, the concept may have been new to a lot of Apple customers, but it wasn't new to me. I proudly showed my MP3 player to friends when they gushed about the iPod. Thus Apple's iPod was not an innovative product in and of itself. Years later, however, I realized the significance of ecosystem of which the iPod was a part. Apple had released iTunes (with technology purchased from  SoundJam MP ) and created the iTunes Store for finding and downloading music. Unlike Napster , it was a safe and legal way of distributing and acquiring music. The prior way of playing

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Interaction Design: the Neglected Skill

Your product development organization has a big, gaping hole in it. (Be prepared to feel defensive as you continue reading.) One of the most important roles in product development is the role of interaction designer. An interaction designer designs how the users will interact with the product and conceptualize the tasks they perform. He decides whether, for example, the user interface will be command driven, object oriented (clicking on objects then specifying what to do with them), or wizard based. The interaction designer decides the individual steps in the use cases. Every company has one or more people that play the interaction designer role. Usually, those people have little or no expertise in interaction design. Sadly, they typically don't even realize how unqualified they are. Let's see who typically plays the role at companies. Engineer . An engineer is an expert on building what is designed. Yes, an engineer may know how to design the internal structure of the hardware