Written by Laura Mirengoff, Director

As Doug pointed out previously, traveling for focus groups, especially internationally, can be an exciting challenge. But once you overcome the travel obstacles, you want to make sure the research is executed as flawlessly as it would be in the United States.  In 2014 alone, KRC Research conducted focus groups in thirteen international markets. Here are a few tips on how to ensure successful groups.

Be conscious of audiences’ cultural differences.

Certain markets have cultural norms that inform the type of feedback you will receive from focus group respondents. In some countries, respondents are more willing to express open and honest feedback; in others, respondents may be predisposed to share only what they think the moderator and client want to hear. In some cultures respondents are inclined to hold back their true opinions in favor of building consensus.

Additionally, other societal contexts on the ground can impact how respondents perceive an issue. For instance, some markets have extremely high levels of taxation that influence the kinds of purchases that individuals make. And sometimes certain entities, like the local postal service, might not operate in the same way in each market. Understanding these different norms ahead of time will lead to more informed research.

Understand the nature and restrictions of the audience you want to reach.

Recruiting narrow, niche audiences in the U.S. can be difficult at times; that challenge is sometimes exacerbated when conducting groups abroad. In some markets, for example, you may not have access to policymakers. In others, privacy laws may limit your ability to ask certain demographic questions of respondents. In such cases, it can be extremely advantageous to stay flexible based on necessary trade-offs and availability of certain respondents in your markets of interest.

Consider the local calendar when scheduling groups.

Avoid focus groups the week of July 4th and Thanksgiving. Assume Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend are four day weekends, not three day weekends. These are seemingly obvious scheduling tips for focus groups in the United States both for when to schedule groups and how much recruiting time is needed. Every international market has its own holiday and vacation calendar to be respectful of. Building a timeline around these conflicts will help you avoid an empty room during a local holiday or sporting event.

Leverage livestreaming.

Sending a full team to multiple international markets is very expensive and time-consuming. Most facilities abroad are capable of setting up live web streaming where viewers can watch the groups in real time while listening to a simultaneous translation. This provides clients at home the opportunity to think through what they’re hearing and generate new ideas to be tested. Their comments can be relayed to the moderator in real-time through a research team member on site. This allows us to adapt the groups to what participants are saying exactly as we would in the U.S. Reacting quickly though this technology helps to generate more useful insights.

Focus groups are an invaluable research tool, and conducting them in multiple markets to compare findings or to explore new possibilities can be extremely beneficial. Planning for and addressing the inherent challenges in these situations can lead to incredibly rich research results.