Focus groups are here to stay
24/05/2017 Dipen Mehta 0 comments

Focus groups are here to stay – Especially in the Middle East

With the advent of data mining, online research and big data, some might say focus groups are on the way out as a technique for market research in the Middle East.  However the reality is far from it and even today clients are spending as much on F2F Qualitative research as the yester years   – still and irreplaceable method for conducting Consumer research.

Unboxed Consulting Middle East and Africa does both Qualitative and Quantitative Research and some of the most insightful work comes from doing Ethnography visits, Focus groups or One on One In-depth Interviews. The anecdotal and often memorable insights come even from one stray mention in an FGD

There are multiple reasons why FGDs will never go out of fashion, whether it is for concept development, advertising research product feedback or Usage and attitude studies – esp. as a pre-cursor for Quantitative research or as a diagnostic tool after it.

The main reasons why are :

  1. Data collection – as live as market research can get

These days, online focus groups  or bulletin boards etc – other forms of digital collection are growing in other parts of the world in order to save costs but in GCC (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait etc) as well as North Africa  clients still prefer to attend the groups and see good quality Arabic moderators in action generating good insights.

Also remote methods of collection – telephone, online, Bulletin Boards etc are seen as impersonal in a market where personal contact and relationships are very important to Arabs

  1. Quality recruitment

Recruitment for F2F focus groups are more stringent and any error in respondents can be easily be picked up by the researcher compared to online surveys or groups – much more possible to  avoid “professional” respondents.

  1. Better value for money

Focus groups rarely cost more than an online BBS and clients see more value in them. Most clients feel that online methodology is cheaper – but that is not necessarily true. With a good moderator and the guide are good, there is more value in focus groups.

And nothing is appreciated more than viewing consumers live at a Focus group facility and ask questions at the end of a session or interact with their consumers who they are researching

  1. Personal touch – a must for Arabs

In the Arab world, there is no substitute for the making them feel important. The social bonding and camaraderie in a Focus group venue that happens, ensures that respondents don’t walk out when their time is up. For most Arab women it is also a social outing from their daily life.

Given how important relationships are, respondents often bond with the Arabic moderator and the insights are deeper. The same does not happen on a CATI interview.

For B2B Research it is even more important as decision makers prefer an interviewer come to them to administer a market research survey than doing it on CATI

  1. Focus group in conjunction with other research methodologies

In the Middle East, published or accurate market research data is often difficult to source and hence FGDs have be combined with other methodologies,  to get a holistic picture. In a nutshell, a lot can be done to bring innovation to focus groups while retaining their lasting benefits.

While we cannot refute that Quantitative and  online methodologies are good market research techniques, focus groups remain a great tool for discovering the stories and insights that bring consumers to life.

Unboxed Consulting is a Boutique Market research agency based in UAE (Dubai) and is an ESOMAR affiliated agency that does Qualitative and Quantitative Consumer research, B2B and pharma research as well as work among High networth individuals (HNWIs). They have access to Focusvision enabled venues in UAE and Saudi Arabia. Its founder Dipen Mehta has been working in the Middle East with various Consumer FMCG , Telecom, finance and hospitality brands over 20 years. Their footprint spreads over Middle East, GCC, North Africa and India

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