The Difference between Focus Groups and In-Depth Interviews

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Companies looking to test a concept, product, or idea will often hire qualitative market-research firms to
carry out research. Experienced market researchers employ a variety of methodologies to capture the
nuanced responses of the target demographic, who are specifically recruited to participate in market
research studies. Qualitative research will often include focus groups and/or in-depth interviews,
depending on the scope of the project and budget.
Focus groups and in-depth interviews are tried-and-true ways to get to the “how” and “why” behind
decision-making processes of the recruited respondents. While both methodologies are useful tools to
researchers and yield copious amounts of data, they aren’t necessarily interchangeable. If the budget
allows for it, market researchers can paint a more holistic picture if both methodologies are used;
however, this isn’t always possible so it’s good to know the benefits of each methodology to understand
why one might be chosen over the other.
In-depth interviews and focus groups each have their own strengths, let’s explore some of the
differences between the two:

FOCUS GROUPS IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS

FOCUS GROUPS
Recruiting for focus groups requires more than simply asking people to sit in a room for a few hours to
answer questions. Focus groups are well curated and long before a group of people are sitting in a room
together, the researcher spends a lot of time working with the client to better understand who the
target demographic is. With the target audience in mind, professional recruiters are usually hired to find
the best participants to populate the study. Researchers and recruiters work in tandem to ensure there
is a balance between homogeny and diversity. There is a fine balance between the two!
Participating in a focus group yields less time per participant to talk, compared with in-depth interviews,
but what is revealed is how participants respond to group dynamics and the forces that may influence
their thinking and behaving. The strength and experience of the moderator greatly influences the quality
Better understand real-
world responses
Observations can be made
between participants of
their commonalities and
differences
Fluid discovery of subject
matter being researched
Brainstorming
Showing visuals (logos, etc)

Better to explore
sensitive topics, such as
health or finance-related
subjects
Granular understanding
of service/product being
tested
Easier to reach a broader
audience
Yields more detailed
answers per question

what is learned during a focus group. Well-versed moderators know how to “read the room” and will
steer the conversation to pull out more nuanced responses from participants.
Keep in mind that if visual campaigns, food, or beverages are the subject being tested, focus groups are
the best methodology, as it’s near impossible to get quality feedback for such subjects over the phone.
IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS
If a subject needs deeper insight, in-depth interviews are often the better choice. In-depth interview
participants have the undivided attention of the interviewer, and subject matters can be explored in
more detail.
Sometimes researchers decide to go with an in-depth interview because it’s easier to recruit participants
to commit to an interview rather than a focus group. This especially applies if the demographic being
targeted is rural or for parents with young children. Scheduling for in-depth interviews offers
participants more flexibility and rarely requires any travel.
Market research firms will recommend which qualitative methodology is most appropriate, depending
on the scope of the project and budget.

Looking to recruit for your next qualitative market research study? Contact us
here.

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