Posted by: bbannan | February 21, 2012

Focus Groups – Nouf

There are a variety of techniques accessible in collecting necessary information when conducting a research; among those techniques is the focus groups. It is a great system of information gathering that is recognized and valued by many researchers, educators, organizations, as well as by community leaders. Kuniavsky’s chapter on Focus groups provides me with a great perception on one of the significant method of information gathering for user research and design research. Focus groups could definitely assist throughout the progress of one’s prototype during the semester.

What is a Focus Group?

A focus group is a series of discussions intended to collect participants’ perceptions, set in a “permissive, nonthreatening environment.”

(Krueger, 2000)

A focus group is a discussion conducted in a group of (approximately 6 to 10 people- enough to give everyone the opportunity to express an opinion). The participants could be selected randomly by choosing different population and race to gain diverse point of views, or the participants could be selected in a not random mode but instead selected based on who best meets the recruitment criteria to obtain a particular point of view on a specific issue.  The main purpose of conducting a focus group is for the purpose of gathering opinion, perspective, and suggestion from the participants to make the appropriate decision and modification on the research performed. Corporations for instance include focus groups for overall support in marketing their products.

Why conduct a focus group?

Reliable, valid information collected in a manner that takes stakeholders’ values and needs into consideration has the potential to reduce conflicts and provide leadership to decision-makers in organizations and communities.

(House and Howe, 1999)

 The purpose of conducting a focus group

  • Increases elaboration on a particular topic selected
  • Achieves a broader insight into understanding a specific topic selected
  • Helps in gaining a better understanding a group of participants’ interpretations, perceptions, insights, knowledge, and attitude of a particular topic explored
  • Provides a clear explanation on why a certain opinion is held
  • Offers assistance in planning and designing a new product/idea
  • Offers assistance in improving a certain product/idea
  • Assists in finding a solution to an issue

When to use a Focus group?

As stated by (McQuarrie, 1996), when conducting a research design, the could be used in three modes:

  1. 1.      Stand alone method: Focus groups are the only data collection method used
  2. 2.      Supplementary to a survey: Focus group is used to enhance a previous collected data; it could be collected either before the survey to find out what the issue is or after the survey to solve the issue.
  3. 3.      Multi method design: Studies uses more than one method of collecting the data.

ABCs of Focus Groups

Richard A Krueger (1994) pointed out four basic steps in conducting a successful focus group:

  1. Planning: It is important to carefully plan the focus group several days ahead to ensure a flawless system and an enhanced outcome; plan by clarifying the purpose of conducting the research, evaluating resources required, deciding on the method and procedure used, and finally preparing the questions.
  2. Recruiting: Recruit the participants’ that you will interview for an informative and beneficial result and choose the appropriate location and time to conduct the interview.
  3. Moderating: Have the outlined questions available during the session, perform the focus group session to gather the proper information and make sure to store all essential data.
  4. Analysis and Reporting: Organize, summarize, then analyze the data collected from the participants and use program available for analysis then interpret the records and publish the results.

Example of a Retailer Using Focus Groups:

Starbucks is a worldwide-recognized coffee shop; it is a great illustration of a retailers’ continuous implementation of focus groups to get a deep insight on customers likes and dislikes. The purpose of using focus groups is to enhance their products and ensure their customers’ satisfaction.  There are many articles and resources presented on the net that describes Starbucks’ usage of focus groups, such as an article posted on July of 2009, “Starbucks: Give Your Customers Free Stuff (For a Price)”.

The article introduces the notion of the golden card offered to Starbucks’ loyal customers that was initially formatted through focus groups.  Focus groups/loyal customers demonstrated the desire of feeling important and being rewarded from time to time as regularly purchasing from Starbucks. Therefore until the current time there are many benefits and VIP treatments to Starbucks’ loyal customers, such as the holder of a Golden card illustrates to the barista that he/she is a loyal customer by owning one, also with every purchase the cardholder gets a point and when reaching fifteen points the cardholder gets a free drink. Additionally the cardholder may get a free cup of coffee when purchasing a bag of coffee bean, free pumps of syrup in their drinks, free refill, and free cup of coffee when a new coffee is out. As Brad Stevens Starbucks’ vice president of customer relationship management says, “We could show we are listening to customer needs by offering value right off the bat,”

Conclusively, the idea of the golden card illustrated a positive outcome, “By the end of the second quarter of this year, the promotion had brought in $17.5 million in revenue from 700,000 card purchasers.” This statistical data was performed during 2009; however until today the usage of the golden card is widely spread and used that undoubtedly indicates the continuous rise in revenue and increase in positive outcome, which with the help of focus groups made the progressive effect possible.

Furthermore, one of the most recent posted article on the net that provides efficient and updated evidence on the topic of focus groups, the article “Starbucks draws big crowds”; It describes how the opening of Starbucks at California State University was a result of focus group participants’ feedback and their suggestion of opening a Starbucks on campus. The opening of Starbucks on campus resulted in the attractions of a large crowd and happy customers.

Related & Useful Links:

Example of research conducted using focus groups:

Sample of focus groups questions:

Visual People: some helpful & informative videos on YOUTUBE that explains Focus groups


House, R., and K. Howe, 1999. Values in Evaluation and Social Research. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

Krueger, R. A., 1994.  Focus groups:  A Practical Guide for Applied Research (2nd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage.

Krueger, R., and M.A. Casey, 2000. Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research (3rd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Marsh, Ann. (July 20, 2009) Starbucks: Give Your Customers Free Stuff (For a Price).Cbsnews. Retrieved February 6, 2012 from

McQuarrie EF (1996) The market research toolbox: A concise guide for beginners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Richard A. Krueger, A.M. Huberman, and Matthew Miles, 2000. Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research (3rd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Weiner, Joan. (Feb 08, 2012). Starbucks draws big crowd. CAL STATE MONTEREY BAY NEWS . Retrieved February 6, 2012 from


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