Focus groups on Zoom

Conducting focus groups on Zoom will be one of the lasting outcomes of the pandemic for research agencies like Acumen.

Zoom, along with Microsoft Teams, emerged as market leaders in online video conferencing in 2020, when our work and social lives were suddenly swapped from the real world to online.

With the wide acceptance of Zoom as a replacement for face to face meetings in professional settings, a shift has occurred. It’s one that has real benefits for the market research industry – as long as you remember to stick to good practices when running focus groups online.

So, what are the benefits of running focus groups on Zoom? And what are the downsides? Read on to find out more. If you want to ask the experts at Acumen about delivering engaging virtual research, get in touch with us for a quote or to find out more.



Zoom focus groups are location-free

One of the clear benefits of online focus groups is the ability to gather people from different locations and time zones at the same time, at the click of a ‘Join’ button.

Conducting a focus group on Zoom widens the pool of participants immeasurably. In fact, they don’t have to live in the UK, or even in the same time zone. And they won’t have to miss any sessions if they go on holiday or visit friends and family in another part of the country.

Zoom focus groups are free of ‘location bias’ – the same type of people living in the same place. They also allow you to assemble a wider range of people more easily. 

And have been a game-changer for focus groups where the participants need to tick very specific boxes. These people can now be included if they have access needs or live in remote locations. The advent of Zoom focus groups may improve qualitative research outcomes – time will tell.


Online focus groups are cheaper

Remember arranging venues for focus groups, providing travel and food? Forget all that. Now the venue is their living room, and no-one will be late to sessions because their trains are delayed. It takes fewer staff to run sessions on Zoom normally, and it’s also easier and cheaper for the client to log in. Recording sessions to send to clients requires no extra equipment – it’s all done at the touch of Zoom’s ‘Record’ button. 


Everyone can join a Zoom

Before Covid-19 moved much of our lives online, a proportion of each focus group might not have been comfortable with online sessions. They may have disliked the idea of it, and struggled with the technology.

Now, most people have made use of Zoom or another video platform during lockdowns 1, 2 or 3 to attend lessons, do their work, or keep in touch with friends and family.

Zoom exploded in popularity and uptake because it’s so simple to use. You don’t need an account or to be logged in to join a meeting. You just need a device like a phone, tablet or computer; access to wifi; and a web browser. 


What’s wrong with Zoom focus groups?

Using Zoom for focus groups isn’t without its downsides, however. Here are just a few to be aware of.

Some people can struggle with their wifi connection. This can be unsettling for them and everyone else in the group. And being at home means they may have distractions.

While Zoom is probably better than you think for meeting people and forming relationships, there’s no doubt that if you want your focus group to gel, it would be better to meet in person. 

User testing with focus groups are particularly tricky in Zoom. You can’t swap items on Zoom, or see how people handle items. 

Spending long periods of time on Zoom can lead to Zoom fatigue. So if your sessions are a couple of hours a day, you’re probably fine. But day-long sessions won’t feel enjoyable on Zoom, or be very productive.


Planning a Zoom focus group

It goes without saying that if you’re running a focus group on Zoom, the people involved need to know how to use it properly. Key areas to get to grips with are:

  • Sending out Zoom invitations and assigning hosts
  • Using breakout rooms
  • Sharing screens and knowing how to share video sound
  • Recording sessions

Zoom offer free daily live webinars on how to run meetings if you need to upskill. Our website has a Zoom Focus Groups user guide, which includes ‘best practice’ tips for your participants. Here are a few in brief:

Check wi-fi
It needs to be strong enough to stream video content. Turning off other wi-fi enabled devices can often help.

Have good lighting
Avoid backlighting as that just creates a silhouette. You need to be seen.

Get comfortable
Pick a spot where you’re comfortable and prop up tablets or phones.

Avoid interruptions
Choose a place and time where you’re not likely to be interrupted or have background noise.

Be present
Avoid multi-tasking. Close apps or tabs that might be distracting.


Work with us

At Acumen we are skilled at all forms of qualitative research, including running focus groups online as well as face to face. Find out more about our team and services on the link below.


We strive to create long-lasting partnerships with clients, growing with them and delivering high quality fieldwork to achieve the results they need. We’d love to work with you on your research project. Contact us via the form or details on the link below.