A Beginner's Guide to Focus Groups & Technology

By Lisa Boughton

Focus groups are one of the most effective ways for researchers to gather insightful qualitative data. If you want to explore the attitudes, opinions and perceptions of your audience, it’s one of the best methodologies available. After all, there’s no substitute for seeing a person’s reaction to a product or service first hand – a simple smile or frown can provide a huge amount of information to the trained eye.

But what if technological innovations could improve how we do things? Could there possibly come a time when we can offer the same attention to detail and gain in-depth customer insights without having to even look participants in the eye? From video conferencing to neuroscience and even virtual reality, technology is transforming how we carry out research and improving how we go about collecting qualitative data.

So could face-to-face interviewing soon be a thing of the past? Read on to find out more…

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing has been around for a long time – long enough for all of us to have experienced many a frustrating call with sound delays and pixilated images. But, as technology continues to improve, video conferencing could become an increasingly useful device. Imagine huge screens where life-sized, crystal clear images of your participants are beamed into your conference room so it’s like you are in the room with them: no jerky picture, no broken sound, just an easy, flowing conversation without any glitches.

With increasingly powerful processors and ever-faster network speeds, you could hold video conference focus groups without having to leave your office with participants remaining in the comfort of their own home.


Neuroscience is the study of the brain and how neurons impact thoughts, actions and behaviours. Using technology such as eye tracking, facial coding and brainwave measurement, neuroscience identifies reactions to stimuli and tracks emotional responses in real time using state-of-the-art facial coding, eye tracking and brainwave measurement. It’s a growing area that is transforming focus groups by helping researchers get to the bottom of how participants truly think and feel. If participants are shy or reluctant to tell the truth about something in a face-to-face setting, neuroscience can uncover the real emotions involved in their decision making process.

Virtual Reality

When virtual reality first reared its head in the early 90’s we were all promised an immersive experience that would change our lives forever. It didn’t quite work out that way. The visuals were clunky, the equipment complicated and intrusive and it was also hugely expensive. A great idea, but the technology just wasn’t there. Now, though, things have changed – technology has improved vastly.

Virtual reality can become a game changer for market research and bring massive benefits to how we conduct qualitative research. Imagine a world where your participants won’t have to leave the comfort of their home to take part in a focus group. They can just pop on a headset and be able to touch and use products in virtual form, before joining a focus group to discuss the product in a completely computer simulated environment.

Not only would this be a huge boost in terms of response numbers because it makes research so easy, but if other technology such as neuroscience is integrated too, it could completely transform how researchers collect data.

So what does all this technological progress mean for focus groups?

Technology is making research and focus groups easier and more efficient for everyone involved. Researchers might soon be able to access the most insightful data with increasing ease, and if participants can take part in focus groups remotely this will undoubtedly result in higher response rates and fewer dropouts.

Perhaps there’s no limit to what technology can do, and perhaps face-to-face interviewing will soon become a thing of the past; only time will tell. The only certain thing is, we’ll be keeping a keen eye on where it’s all heading.

If you need help organising your focus groups, speak to our team now, or send us your latest project details and we’ll be happy to help you get the best out of your research.

By Lisa Boughton, Angelfish Fieldwork