Online Survey or Focus Group? When Budget Matters

In the world of market research, we encounter one single question with striking frequency: “How can we make the most impact with our budget?”

It’s a great question, but to answer it requires a solid understanding of what you aim to learn with your research. The fact of the matter, is that different types of research are going to lead to different outcomes. Quantitative research is great for gaining more objective insights that are supported by numbers; whereas, qualitative research can be useful for collecting more in-depth anecdotal evidence.

at 4media group, another frequently asked question clients approach us about is: “What’s the difference between online surveys and focus groups?”

So, just how do these two research methods vary?

Online Surveys

In general, an online survey is a carefully planned questionnaire designed to be completed online by participants who meet your desired target audience. In fact, one of the most significant advantages of using online surveys is their overall reach and scalability, up to a potentially global audience when needed.

With the ability to target audience samples ranging from general-population to something as specific as pet owners, the opportunity to select specific audience samples is yet another benefit of the online survey. By utilizing sample sizes, typically in the thousands, online surveys offer the chance to produce robust, mediagenic results, which can turn to media-grabbing headlines.

One thing to note when it comes to online survey design is that the sample and length of the survey are what ultimately impacts the budget. The more specific your audience samples are (like empty nesters or softball enthusiasts) the higher your survey will cost. Additionally, lengthier surveys requiring more time for participants to complete typically result in higher survey costs.

online survey focus group

Focus Groups

Alternatively, a focus group is a form of qualitative research that usually consists of a small group of people. Participants’ responses are then used to determine the reactions that might be expected from a larger population. As a whole, focus groups are typically used for brand-building exercises, product testing, or as a tactic to put together a questionnaire for larger samples.

While focus groups vary from online surveys in several ways, the most notable difference is that focus groups don’t necessarily produce generalizable results. The goal here is to gather deeper insights through individual narratives. By utilizing smaller audience samples, typically between 10 to 20 people, focus groups allow a moderator to get in-person responses, ask follow-up questions, and probe for specific insights.

Like online surveys, the overall budget in focus groups is also impacted by the sample, but also requires several more considerations than an online survey. You need a moderator, a venue in which to host the focus group, a method of incentivizing your sample to show up, and you’ll probably want to feed them too. Focus groups can get expensive, however they have the ability to produce unique insights.

Which Option is Better for Budget?

Research is the foundation of any good marketing strategy because of its ability to produce deeper insights into consumer needs and motivations. Keeping in mind these main differences between the two most commonly used forms of market research, we can consider a couple of factors that may be of importance when deciding which research method is the right fit for your budget.

If you need a very niche audience sample, an online survey is going to become more expensive pretty quickly— especially if you have a lengthy questionnaire. In this case, hosting a focus group may be a better option for your budget. This option allows you to get the most use out your time with the sample.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to create a whitepaper, do large scale media pitching, or produce headline-grabbing content that’s based on a broader audience sample, an online survey may be better for your budget. It will cost less, as well as take less time to set up and complete.

Regardless of which research method you decide on using, we have good news: 4media can do both! Whether you want to host a focus group or create a fantastic online survey, we’ve got you covered.

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