Survey Research vs. Focus Groups – Which is More Reliable?

Market research has long been one of the leading ways to make business decisions. It is the only way to get a true pulse on what the consumer needs, and a great way to answer questions that affect your business. Market research is one of the most important tools for a business that wants to be successful, and generates considerable ROI when run correctly.

When it comes to market research, there are two common methods of collecting data:

  • Survey Research
  • Focus Groups

Both of these strategies have their benefits and weaknesses. Surveys tend to be more cost effective and provide better data. Focus groups are a little better at stimulating discussion. Reliability, however, is a key factor in decision making. You want to make sure that the information you collect is going to give you an accurate idea for what changes to make in your business. This begs the question: Which is more reliable?

Survey Research

Surveys allow you to collect the most information. By choosing a sample that best represents your consumer base, you can be far more confident that the information you collect is an accurate representation of the opinions of the clients. You can also follow up more easily, get more candid responses, and adjust your data more easily to account for any underrepresented groups in your customer base. Survey research also tends to yield concrete data, which is better for running analyses. Finally, surveys allow you to track changes in market response over time, which can lead to further insight into your business strategy.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are generally much smaller. While they are an interesting way to brainstorm ideas, the sample size is an issue, as rarely will a focus group be large enough to draw definitive conclusions. Focus groups are a good way to get discussion going, and many researchers have reported learning an idea that they would have missed had it not been for the opinion of a focus group member. Unfortunately, without the anonymity of the survey, it’s often harder to convince people to speak up.

Which is More Reliable?

If you are simply looking to brainstorm ideas or get a feel for what people think of different business strategies, focus groups may be useful. But when it comes to reliability, the capabilities of a survey are unmatched. Your sample is greater, your participants tend to be more honest, and the data you collect is easier to analyze. Focus groups have their place, but surveys offer substantially more reliability.

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