Adding an experiential element brings focus groups alive, says Engage Research

Brands can achieve far more valuable insights from focus group research if they leverage factors which differentiate them from their competitors to give participants a “money can’t buy” experience.
By: Engage Research
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* Focus Groups
* Experiential
* Customer
* Shopper
* Customer Insight

* Marketing
* Research

* London City - London, Greater - England

LONDON - April 12, 2013 - PRLog -- Brands can achieve far more valuable insights from focus group research if they leverage factors which differentiate them from their competitors to give participants a “money can’t buy” experience.

That’s the message from customer insight agency Engage Research which has seen through its own work how turning classic focus group research into an “experiential event” can create a more engaging experience, yielding significantly enhanced results.

“Brands have been using focus groups for years to gain valuable insights about their brand and their products. But just because focus groups remain a staple, doesn’t mean they cannot be improved or be made to deliver higher quality insights across almost any category from food to media,” explains Engage’s Qualitative Director, Andy Barker.

Engage positioned a recent project for a TV channel as a viewer 'event' rather than a research project, building the event around what the TV company could offer – its studios, the cameras, the presenters. Unusually, there was no cash incentive - the incentive was the experience and a 'take-home' DVD of each person’s one-to-one interview with one of the station’s anchor presenters.

The on-set group discussion was created the around the TV news desk, utilising the features and assets particular to this client or sector as a 'pull mechanism' to attract and connect with its customers. The viewers came to the studio early on the day and, over breakfast, networked among themselves and with the client’s staff. This enabled them to bond and hit the ground running when they were taken ‘on set’ for the group session. But they were deliberately not left alone. Client staff mingled to ensure the insight process began before the discussion, adding even more value to the day.

The production gallery became a viewing facility for senior client staff who watched the session unfold. Not only were they able to digest insights as they happened, but they could also feed additional questions to the moderator via an ear piece without disrupting the flow of the group.

The initiative positioned the customer at the heart of the business and provided invaluable insights into how viewers (customers) use the channels and what they want to see more/less of. Significant decisions were made almost immediately, based on direct feedback from viewers, in a form and with a depth that was enhanced by the process.

“From a research standpoint, this approach does not require anything as fancy as a TV studio to be successful,” adds Barker. “In fact it can work anywhere for any business in any category. We use the acronym ALIVE as a starting point.”

·     A is for Attitude : create a “co-creative” attitude amongst all stakeholders – tell consumers what the issues are so that they can help address them.
·     L is for Location : think about your venue; is there an unusual venue we can use; can you invite people to your offices, give them access to senior executives. Is there a way to enhance the space or dress the room to create more theatre.
·     I is for Interaction : a real success factor of these “events” is the direct interaction between client teams and consumers – great for client teams because they get to ask questions immediately, observe people up close and personal and also answer questions to move the process along; great for consumers because they feel valued and included and their curiosity about who is behind their favourite products is satisfied.
·     V is for Vibe : the process needs to be generally dynamic and energy levels maintained, but there should be room for moments of calm reflection and individual feedback – these events allow us to change pace and style of task as appropriate
·     E is or Energiser : we always conduct a whole group energiser to kick off the session. This can be a simple meet and greet or 5 minutes of “speed dating” where all client team members and respondents get a chance to say hello and introduce themselves before the sessions starts.

“When we conducted our first “experiential” session, our original hypothesis - that enhanced consumer engagement would produce a better level of insight - was proven. And now we do it all the time and find quite clearly that respondents 'respond' to a heightened level of experience.

The best place to conclude is with the participants themselves. They told us they felt more engaged, that they had made a deeper and more authentic contribution as a result and one told us they felt they were “influencing the business in a far more meaningful way than in other typical research formats because it gets you really engaged, out of the mode of ‘I’m participating in research’.” You can’t ask for more than that,” concludes Barker. (

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