Wednesday, January 04, 2006

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.

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