Online focus groups

Online focus groups are an excellent way to gather qualitative market research on your brand, product, project or service. Acumen is an award-winning market research agency with years of experience working with brands. We can manage all aspects of your online focus group from start to finish, to deliver the research and insights you need. 

Contact us for a quote for online focus groups, or for more information about our work as a leading qualitative research agency in the UK.


What is an online focus group?

Online focus groups are a standard part of qualitative research methodology. They involve getting participants who share some characteristics in common into a room together, along with a facilitator. They are then asked a number of questions about the brand or product that they can delve into deeper than an online survey or one-to-one interview might allow.

The session may be observed or recorded, with the participants permission, to be played back to stakeholders in the research. There is likely to be a transcript which captures relevant ‘verbatims’ from the participants that sum up important nuggets of feedback.

The group dynamic lets you see instantly what lands well with a number of people and what doesn’t. You witness the research participants’ feelings as well as their opinions. And you get to hear some of their ‘hows’ – for example, how they think it should work, how it could be better.


Virtual focus groups – advantages

Online focus groups are simply a virtual version of focus groups, which have been around since the 1940s. During the Coronavirus pandemic, focus group sessions switched from physical venues to online. Remote sessions became widely accepted, and could soon be the norm. This is because running focus groups online has added benefits. Here are some of the main ones:

  • No venue hire costs
  • No travel costs
  • No accommodation costs for people travelling from a distance
  • People less likely be late or get lost as they are not travelling to a venue
  • Easier to get participants who match the criteria as you’re not constrained by location
  • You can use participants from abroard; this widens the pool of suitable participants
  • There are no accessibility issues for participants

How to run a focus group online

As with any focus group, the first place to start is by being clear about the reason for doing the research and what you hope to gain from it. Acumen are your ideal partners as we are an award-winning qualitative market research agency. We have years of experience working with big brands, large agencies and other market research companies. 

Once you’ve decided that a focus group is the right next step for your research – as opposed to one-to-one interviews, a workshop, or accompanied shops – you have two clear next steps. 

One is to recruit participants for your focus group, based on specific criteria. The other is to decide the format and questions. Here’s how that works when you partner with us.

Focus groups recruitment

Acumen are specialists in fieldwork. We have our own in-house recruitment team with access to a national database of over 100,000 participants. And we can go beyond this to find niche or hard-to-reach people for any type of focus group research. 

We have a dedicated Healthcare research team who understand the sensitivities and specialisms of the medical world. And we have international reach, working with partners across the globe where your market research extends across regions.

Format for virtual focus groups

Questions like how many participants and how long your focus group session should run are important ones to decide early on. We will work with you on the questions for the session, depending on the information you are seeking from your online focus group. We’ll agree the running order and schedule and send you all documentation, including profiles of the participants.


Online focus group dos and don’ts

We are highly experienced at running focus groups on Zoom, in Microsoft Teams, Google and other platforms. We have written this useful guide of essentials for delivering engaging virtual research, for our customers and visitors to our site.

Running focus groups remotely is easy, but there are a few things to be aware of:

Tech know-how: Most people can join a Zoom or Teams meeting, but a tech check the day before will help ensure participants can log into the platform and that their wifi is stable. 

Screen fatigue: It’s a good idea to build in breaks to avoid screen fatigue for all the participants

Focus in the session: Focus group needs to… focus! So participants should be reminded to keep their attention on the session. Advise them against getting distracted by other people in the house, multi-tasking or using other media while the focus group is in session.

Meeting reminders: Even though virtual focus groups avoid the problems of people running late due to transport, or getting lost en route, it’s still easy to miss an online meeting. Reminders are essential, as well as the phone numbers of participants in case anyone doesn’t show up.

Online accessibility Through real-world venues present greater barriers for accessibility, remember to check whether any assistive technology like screen readers are needed for your participants.


Work with the experts at Acumen

Using platforms like Zoom, Google and Microsoft Teams for virtual research sessions has made running focus groups easier than ever. 

Acumen’s Qualitative Research Team has years of experience running focus groups in person and online. What’s more, they have the know-how and experience to get to the heart of your brief and create focus groups that realise your market research needs.

Whether it’s technical know-how, the practicalities of running focus groups, or the deep understanding about qualitative market research that comes with years of experience and professional training – we are your ideal partner for online focus groups.

Please get in touch with us to discuss your research project. We form long-lasting relationships with many of our clients and would love the opportunity to work on your focus group and all your qualitative market research.

Get in touch: Use our online CONTACT FORM or call 0161 234 9940