To be or not to be… behind the glass that is?

The classic style focus group method consists of participants and moderator in the same room with the client observers behind the glass. For a majority of qualitative research objectives, focus groups provide a venue for learning to thrive and uniquely engage clients with their target audiences. These experiences are intimate and provide opportunities to experience nuances otherwise absent from decisions made behind a desk and computer.

The value of the focus group observation process for innovation and discovery is well-documented and demonstrated on virtually every retail shelf, effective advertising campaign, and successful service. Even the savviest of online researchers appreciate the value of in-person observations for accurately understanding anticipated behavior nuances, sentiment, and rich insight discovery.

An emerging innovative approach is inviting clients to actively participate in the discovery process, that is, sit at the table with their target audience. In this venue, clients can ask planned questions and also have opportunities for spontaneous inquiries immediately as participants provide insights. In this environment the clients, moderator(s), and market research partners participate together to yield effective insights, move initiatives forward, enhance concept or message development, or contribute to other complex questions.

We most often utilize this client-participation model to further learning subsequent to a series of classic focus groups. Typically in a second phase, participants initially provide validation of earlier findings in a large group, then are broken into three individual groups (which can be segmented by habits or POBAs). The individual groups are comprised of 5 participants: 3 target audience participants, one moderator/market research representative, and one end-client. Unless your client has moderating training, it is recommended that a person with a foundation in research be present at each table to keep groups on task and ensure unbiased discovery. Many interesting behaviors occur with clients when they actively participate with their target audience:

1. A stronger ownership of the data and discovery process
2. The personalization of insights that carry clients through the execution process
3. Insight ambassadors in moving the objectives forward with their internal colleagues


Some clients enjoy this new innovation process, others are happy to leave discovery to the research experts and participate from behind the glass. Either way, observation is one of the most powerful learning tools available. It provides personal witness of experience into the target audiences’ behaviors. Only in observation of behavior can a client holistically understand the world of their customers.

As market researchers, we can use the power of observation to deepen consumer insights about your products through a variety of methodologies!

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014 at 3:03 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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