There are basically two types of online focus group. These are:
These take place live, and are either video or chat-room based. These are the nearest online equivalent to traditional face-to-face focus groups, in the sense that they take place in real-time.
Otherwise known as bulletin board focus groups, these take place over several days, with new questions posted each day. Participants can log in at any time each day, not necessarily when the moderator is online.
Synchronous and asynchronous compared
Asynchronous groups can be set up and run more quickly, and cost less, than synchronous groups. But, we would argue, they also produce better quality insight. That is for various reasons.
Better qualified participants
With asynchronous groups the participants do not need to be available at a particular time on a specific day. Hence, there is a bigger pool of prospective participants for recruiters to choose from.
Furthermore, participants who do not engage satisfactorily during the research can be removed and replaced, even at a late stage.
With asynchronous groups it is possible to ask, for example, joint decision-makers to take part together. This could be married couples or parents and children, for example.
Time for probing
With asynchronous groups the moderator has more time to probe the answers of individual participants. In fact, with asynchronous groups the moderator can ask different participants different questions. And new questions can be added at any stage.
Time for consideration
With asynchronous groups it is possible to ask participants to give instant instinctive replies to questions. But it is also possible to ask them to take their time over other questions. This could involve answering these questions the following day.
With asynchronous groups participants can choose to answer on a one-to-one basis with the moderator. The moderator can also choose to make questions private, so that no participant can see any other participants’ answers. This encourages participants to answer honestly, without the risk of being influenced by other participants’ answers.