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Online focus groups: A technological solution

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By Amy Singer, Ph.D., Diana Greninger and Kemberlee Bonnet

Until recently, traditional face-to-face focus groups have been the obvious and most widely used method in conducting research. However, like anything else, face-to-face focus groups have their challenges. For example, traditional focus groups can be expensive, require extensive travel and often involve small samples so outcomes can be limited in generalization. In addition, some individuals might be introverted and others reluctant to express their true opinions because of embarrassment or fear of group disapproval. It can also be difficult fulfilling the opposition prone sample that you need. Fortunately technology has provided a solution to many problems associated with traditional focus groups by changing the location in which they are conducted: online.

Have you ever ran into any of the aforementioned issues while conducting research using traditional focus groups? Here is some food for thought:
• Is the sample that you need, a group that is difficult to bring together in one venue?
• Is your trial in a jurisdiction that requires extensive travel?
• Does your case involve a sensitive topic that live jurors might be reluctant to provide true opinions?
• Is participant travel a problem?
• Do you have a limited focus group budget?
If you answered “yes” to some of these, then conducting an online focus group may be your best approach!

Online Alternative

Focus groups have historically been used for marketing research but in the past 40 years they have also been used for case research and trial preparation. These days, online focus groups are being used in lieu of traditional face to face focus groups for qualitative and quantitative feedback for several reasons. To name a few, online focus groups liberate researchers from geographical restraints, better accommodates busy schedules, and minimizes cost. Wizpor® virtual focus group methodology is designed in a way that allows attorneys to obtain detailed mock juror feedback from a large audience quickly, effectively and inexpensively.

Audience Gathering

Wizpor® audience gathering, allows you to recruit a hand-picked audience that reflects an authentic jury. For example, a stay at home parent might find it difficult to attend a live focus group for the sake of childcare, but is willing to participate online from home. People with physical disabilities could be less likely to participate in a traditional face-to-face focus group because it might be difficult for them to travel, but having the option of participating online might entice them to take part. Of course if selected for jury duty, people from of these demographics would find a way to attend, but might not find a mock trial worthwhile to attend in person given the amount of compensation and the need to commute. In addition, traditional focus groups are limited in the number of participants they can hold, whereas conducting focus groups online allows for an unlimited number of participants. A larger group yields a larger response sample.

Response Quality

Most importantly, the content of Wizpor® feedback is more detailed and less filtered. In online spaces, people become even more expressive because they know that they cannot be seen.
In addition, jurors do not have to “wait their turn,” as they have the freedom of spontaneous expression and multiple people can type and submit comments at the same time. Moreover, jurors can express their thoughts even when arbitrators are giving their opening statements, or as a witness is responding to a question.

People are not as candid in face to face focus groups. Wizpor® is anonymous, which encourages open, direct, detailed feedback where jurors tell us exactly what they think, feel and where they are unclear. In addition, Wizpor® provides quick results, as a transcript is immediately available for analysis, even during the session.

Cost and Convenience

Those who regularly conduct traditional face-to-face focus groups are well aware of how expensive, time consuming and taxing it can be, given the required travel involved for both you and the participants. Online focus groups saves an attorney money, time, and travel. In addition, online focus groups allows for a diverse means of payment to your participants. Jurors can be awarded participation “points” per study that can be traded for gift cards. This type of payment system allows the attorney to pay participants less, yet the participants are satisfied. In addition, an online focus group knows no geographic barriers. This online method allows an attorney to conduct a focus group from their own office and obtain responses from jurors in their trial’s jurisdiction, even if it is across the country.

Options

Of course no one method is perfect. Online focus groups have their own drawbacks, although different than traditional focus groups. It can be difficult to gauge strong emotional reactions online and visual participant interaction is unavailable. Some attorneys may find the absence of a physical audience problematic and need the face-to-face interaction with mock jurors, as it more closely resembles a courtroom dynamic. Obviously it is quite different to speak to a group of people than to speak to a camera or computer screen.

Online focus groups do not have to be a complete substitute for traditional focus groups. Wizpor® allows for the option of conducting a SimulJury® in which both focus group methods are conducted simultaneously.

Conclusion

Online focus groups are undeniably changing and enhancing the way that litigation consultants obtain qualitative juror feedback, and the benefits are substantial. That doesn’t mean that an attorney has to give up traditional focus groups altogether. With Wizpor®, the attorney has the freedom to customize his or her services, yet still save money. Perhaps this will allow you to conduct focus groups on a greater amount of cases and provide that added value to your clients. Have you used on-line focus groups? Were they helpful? Please share your experiences.
If you haven't, why not?

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