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Focus groups vs. interviews : pro’s and con’s

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In an earlier article we discussed the major differences between focus groups and face-to-face interviews. Today we’d like to compare both methodologies and discuss their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Focus groups

Focus groups are especially suited when you want to confirm your analysis with a wide variety of consumers’ profiles. Focus groups are indeed the best way to exchange viewpoints and discuss disagreements between consumers. This dynamics will not be captured in face-to-face interview. In addition focus groups may be less expensive than interviews, provided the analytical treatment remains light. Most market research institutes have indeed removed the costly part of the process (i.e. transcriptions and coding)

Focus groups vs. interviews : pro's and con's

Advantages of qualitative interviews

An interview will allow you to go much deeper, in particular thanks to a longer speaking time. More insights are likely to be collected, which will be useful for a later quantitative phase.

Last but not least, the role of the interviewer is usually less important in interviews than in focus groups; the expected bias, if an interviewing guide has been well prepared, will therefore be lower too.

Disadvantages of focus groups

Whereas focus groups are easy to organize with consumers, they are much more challenging in a B2B context. Have you ever tried to get 8 or 10 busy professionals around one table outside of business hours?

Whatever the setting, the role of the moderator is key to make people speak and interact. The risk to fail is considerably higher than when you follow a well-prepared interview guide.

Disadvantages of face-to-face interviews

The logistics side of the interviews is complicated, especially if you have to travel meet the interviewees. Moreover, analyzing all interviews requires skills (and tools) that are neither easy nor cheap to acquire.

A summary of Pro’s and Con’s (Focus groups vs. interviews)

Advantages Disadvantages
Focus Group
  • diversity of interviewees’ profils and enrichment of responses
  • cheaper than face-to-face interview in case you perform only a light analysis of answers (for instance, without coding or analysis of correlations)
  • is useful is confirm insights obtained through other qualitative methodologies
  • easy to organize in a B2C setting
  • speaking time of some attendees may be considerably higher than that of others, making their contribution disproportionate
  • lower average speaking time
  • moderator’s bias ois hard to prevent
  • difficult to organize in a B2B setting
Face-to-Face interview
  • in-depth analysis thanks to longer speaking time (we consider 75 minutes as being an average interviewing time)
  • higher potential for insights
  • possibility to use coding and perform statistical analysis (correlation matrix)
  • the statistical treatment of results makes it possible to use those robust insights as the fundament of a quantitative survey
  • less bias than with a focus group
  •  more complicated to organize (hence higher organization costs), especially in case of no-show (consider that 20% of interviews will have to be re-scheduled)
  • more complex to interpretate (requires a special software like Maxqda, InVivo or Atlas.ti)


Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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1 Comment

  1. Really helpful.

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