There are instances in which traditional focus groups will continue’to be preferred. For instance, you really can’t explore highly emotional issues or subject matters online. Since the reach for online focus groups is currently limited to people with Internet access, online focus groups are not appropriate for every research situation. Hewever, they are very suitable for companies that use the Internet to sell prodfx:ts or services and want to either gain market share or gather intelligence. Applications include banner ads, copy testing, concept testing, usability testing, multimedia evaluation, and comparisons of icons or graphic images. Mother potential use for online focus groups or surveys is for corporations that want to gather feedback on workplace issues like downsizing, job changes, and diversity. Employees l:an be referred to a Web site where they can participate anonymously in discussions with management. Companies such as Cyber Dialogue specialize in online focus groups, e-mail surveys, and Web surveys .
Enhancing the Utility of Sports Utility Vehicles
One industry that has taken advantage of online focus groups is the automobile industry, specifically Nissan North America. While designing the Xterra sports utility vehicle (SUY). Nissan conducted several online focus groups to get feedback on designs. as well as find out what their target market wanted to see in an SUY. The market. consisting of young active. athletic people. was eager to participate. They wanted an SUY that could carry sporting and camping equipment inside the vehicle or on racks, but they wanted it to be offered at a reasonable price. The focus groups discussed topics such as the features they were looking for. such as racks on the top and the back of the SUY. four doors. a sporty design. trendy colors. and lots of room inside the vehicle. Nissan deliverea in all of these areas. and has been successful. The 2001 Xterra being named the top SUY for 200 I by AAA demonstrates the company’s success.
Online Qualitative Research
Another online qualitative research technique is an online bulletin board on which recruited respondents post their responses to discussion items over a longer period of time. such as several days. (These are also called multiduv moderated threaded discussions.t Online capabilities can also be used to allow clients to
remotely monitor traditional focus groups (through streaming video) or online focus groups. The following Web sites illustrate these online capabilities
t. To experience the steps involved in designing and analyzing online bulletin board research, go to select Online Research and then QualBoard, and then “Qual Boards Interactive- View the Flash Demo.” To advance this overview, use the buttons at the bottom of the screen.
2. To experience how a sponsor of an online focus group can monitor the actual focus group as if from behind the one-way mirror in the back room of the focus group facility, go to and select Products, then ActiveGroup, then “Demo.” You will have to provide an e-mail address and a one-word user name to activate the streaming Video.
3. Visit e-FocusGroups and click on online. Then click on “click here to see Respondent View” to get a view of what the respondents see in an online focus group. Click on “click here to see Client View” to view what the clients see in an online focus group. Write a brief report.
4. Visit comScore SurveySite and write a report on FocusSite, comScore SurveySite’s qualitative online methodology
Probing for Intelligence
In a study designed to come up with new credit card features, respondents merely listed features of existing credit cards when questioned in a structured way. Then depth interviews were employed to probe the respondents. For example, the interviewer asked respondents to ask themselves, “What is important to me? What problems do I have? How do I wish I could live? What is my ideal world?” As a result of this method, consumers relayed information they had previously been unaware of and several new credit card features surfaced. The study uncovered the need for an “intelligent” credit card that could perform such tasks as keeping track of credit card and bank balances, investments, and emergency telephone numbers. Another concern of credit card users is the bulging wallet and annoyance from carrying too many credit cards. Research results found from such a focus group can help credit card companies offer new features while attracting new customers and satisfying existing customers. For example, in 2002 PrivaSys and First Data teamed up to introduce a battery-powered electronic cr;dit card with an internal chip capable of holding an American Express card, MasteICard, gas cards, and other debit cards all on one single piece of plastic that is the same size and shape as one credit card. As of 2009, PrivaSys had developed additional smart-card technologies to help card issuers to reduce fraud and provide substantial differentiation while delivering cardholders additional security and convenience
Three depth-interviewing techniques that have recently gained popularity are laddering, hidden issue questioning, and symbolic analysis. In laddering, the line of questioning proceeds from product
characteristics to user characteristics. This technique allows the researcher to tap into the consumer’s network of meanings. Laddering provides a way to probe into consumers’ deep underlying
psychological and emotional reasons that affect their purchasing decisions. When determining why a person buys a product, researchers want to know more than simply “quality” and “low price.” Therefore, to examine the in-depth underlying motivators a laddering technique should be used.
Hidden Issues and Hidden Dimensions in Air Travel
Laddering. Each airline attribute. such as wide-body aircrafts, was probed (why do you like to travel in wide-body aircrafts?) to determine why it was important (I can get more work done), and then that reason was probed (I accomplish more), and so on (I feel good about myself). Laddering indicated that managers preferred advanced seat reservations, wide-body aircraft, and first-class cabin seating (product characteristics), which resulted in greater physical comfort. This enabled them to get more work done while on the flight, leading to a sense of accomplishment and higher self-esteem (user characteristics). This technique showed that an advertising campaign like the old United Airlines campaign, “You’re The Boss,” which bolsters the self-esteem of the manager- ., worthy of consideration
Information revealed by these techniques can be used to effectively position an airline and to design appropriate advertising and communication strategies. Marketing environment, following the rise of oil prices in 2008, had been very challenging for airline companies. Using these techniques, in 2009 American Airlines was administering the Business ExtrAA program that offered more variety, more choice, and more flexibility than any other airline incentive program for businesses. Programs such as this one helped American to avoid the Chapter II bankruptcy that plagued other major airlines such as United, Delta, Northwest, and US Airways
The interviewer’s role is critical to the success of the depth interview. The interviewer should (1) avoid appearing superior and put the respondent at ease; (2) be detached and objective, yet personable; (3) ask questions in an informative manner; (4) not accept brief “yes” or “no” answers; and (5) probe the respondent.
Applications of Depth Interviews
As with focus groups, the primary use of depth interviews is for exploratory research to gain insights and understanding. However, unlike focus groups, depth interviews are used infrequently in marketing research. Nevertheless, depth interviews can be effectively employed in special problem situations, such as those requiring
1. Detailed probing of the respondent (automobile purchase) \
2. Discussion of confidential, sensitive, or embarrassing topics (personal finances, loose dentures) .
3. Situations where strong social norms exist and the respondent may be easily swayed by group response (attitude of college students toward sports)
4. Detailed understanding of complicated behavior (department store shopping)
5. Interviews with professional people (industrial marketing research)
6. Interviews with competitors, who are unlikely to reveal the information in a group setting (travel agents’ perceptions of airline package travel programs)
7. Situations where the product consumption experience is sensory in nature, affecting mood states and emotions (perfumes, bath soap)