The Pros & Cons of In-Depth Interviews vs. Focus Groups
09 Sep 2021

The Pros & Cons of In-Depth Interviews vs. Focus Groups

When brands set out to conduct qualitative market research, they are seeking deeper insights. Qualitative research methods give light to the consumer thought-process, emotional appeals, and the overall “why?” behind an attitude, thought, or belief. When it comes to qualitative research, there are two primary methods: in-depth interviews and focus groups. In this blog, we will take a look at the pros and cons of in-depth interviews versus focus groups.

In-Depth Interviews

Intimate Insights

IDIs typically involve one moderator and one interviewee. Since the pandemic began, researchers conduct almost all interviews virtually via a video conferencing software like Zoom. These interviews are incredibly intimate. As the questioning only involves one participant, the moderator is free to explore opinions without biases from others. Thus, researchers develop the interview guide of questions with more breadth and depth in mind.

Greater Flexibility

When scheduling in-depth interviews, there is more flexibility compared to focus groups. Participants are contacted directly by the research firm or brand. Since they can pick a time that works best for their schedule, there is an increased willingness for participants to agree to the interview. There are also unique incentives brands or market research firms can use. For example, offering a donation to a charity of the participants’ choice incentivizes them to take the time out of their day.

Focus Groups

Focus groups, on the other hand, are much more collaborative and broad in scope. This qualitative method is perfect for brands looking to follow up with quantitative audience segmentation research. Pre-pandemic, in-person focus groups were conducted in groups of five to ten in-person. They took place in a specially designed room with recording equipment, a two-way mirror, and no visible clocks. Nowadays, research firms conduct most focus groups online using video conferencing software. Due to the constraints of video conferencing, virtual focus groups involve fewer participants, typically three to four. 

Collaborative Ideas

Researchers may gain fewer personal, intimate insights from focus groups. As there are more participants, individuals may feel less inclined to speak without judgment. However, in focus groups, participants can brainstorm together and build upon each others’ ideas. As researchers conduct focus groups among groups with similar interests (for example, vegetarians), they may agree upon, or even more interestingly, disagree upon certain ideas and beliefs. This gives researchers a broad view of a certain segment, which can ultimately inform brand strategy.

Brand Team at the Forefront

Because focus groups are larger, representatives from the brand commissioning the research can observe the sessions in real-time. During in-person sessions, these individuals can watch behind the two-way mirror; during online sessions, they can join the Zoom as an “Observer.” In addition to the market researcher’s immediate topline summary and final deliverables, the brand can observe the commonalities and differences between participants themselves. 

Focus groups and in-depth interviews offer a range of key insights for brands looking to better understand an audience, launch a product, or test a concept. The pros and cons of in-depth interviews versus focus groups are varied in scope; they involve interview intimacy, feasibility, and client observation. Despite the shift to online sessions, there are still many opportunities for brands to take advantage of qualitative research that is more agile, asynchronous, and observable. With an experienced moderator, a robust screener guide, and willing participants, brands can sit back and watch the magic happen.

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