Gaining insight into buying decisions and supplier selection can make all the difference between success and failure in today’s business environment. Given the investment of critical resources in product development efforts and go-to-market strategy development, companies often need to explore market reactions, perceptions and preferences. An important consideration for selecting your research methodology is to determine which approach will yield the best customer insights.

Improving customer acquisition, loyalty and retention have significant financial implications for most organizations. Marketers aspiring to participate in the strategic conversation invest in market and customer research.

Conduct customer research to gain customer insights.

Use customer research to gain valuable customer insights.

We are often asked when to use a focus group (FGs) versus in-depth interviews (IDIs). Both are viable market and customer research methodologies and can even be used in the same research project.

The important consideration is which approach will provide the right customer insights into the question.  Generally, if the objectives are individual in nature IDIs are the best approach.  When group-oriented and the objectives benefit from participants’ discussion or perhaps arguments then FGs are more ideal.

Typically, IDIs are used when you want to explore decisions and compare differences and similarities among reference group members. IDIs are well suited for understanding an individual’s decision processes or responses because they allow for detailed exploration of a single respondent’s reactions without contamination. They are particularly valuable when researchers want individual reactions placed in the context of the individual’s experiences.

Customer Insights: When IDIs are Better

Here are four instances when IDIs are better than focus groups:

  • When group interactions are unimportant or detrimental or if probing
  • When laddering techniques or deep layers of information from probing are key to the process
  • When you require direct or specific responses to a specific set of respondents, especially if the topic is highly sensitive or personal.
  • When you are testing a device or process. 

It might also make sense to use IDIs if this method will make it easier and/or more cost effective to connect with target respondents (either due to schedules or geography). Be careful to avoid doing IDIs because you think they will be easier.

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Customer Insights: When to Use Focus Groups

Use focus groups when group dynamics add to the findings. Here are four instances when focus groups are the better approach:

  • When consensus or debate is required to explore disparate views or you want to generate a point-counterpoint discussion
  • When you want to explore broad topics are encourage people to generate ideas
  • When interaction will help draw out latent issues or help identify trends or you need the interaction as part of the initial discovery process to explore an idea or concept
  • When you want people to work in teams

Your research objectives should be the driving factor when deciding whether to use IDIs or FGs. A good practitioner chooses the best method for the work and the selection process requires understanding the merits of all available approaches. The methods are complementary so it is very possible that a research effort will leverage both approaches: IDIs to gain in depth information and FGs to help understand the social context of issues.

customer insights to deliver marketing valueUse Your Insights to Deliver on the Value of Customer Experience and Retention

Research reveals that most customers don’t defect because they are dissatisfied with the product.  In fact, only about 15% of customers defect for this reason. These studies suggest that 70% of customers defect because of service/attitude reasons on the part of an employee.  The more you can break out some of the reasons why the 70% defected the better chance you have of retaining your customers.

If conducting primary research is out of reach for the moment, use one of these more affordable methods. Advisory Boards and Voice of Customer (VoC). Advisory boards improve your company’s probability for success by providing affordable access to people to better understand the issues that drive marketing decisions. VoC is a technique designed to help a company positively affect the customer experience, and identify and prioritize customer wants and needs.

Contact us to learn more about our cost-effective approaches to improve your listening techniques, develop and implement a VoC initiative to establish customer and/or technical advisory boards.

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