Marketers research consumer needs and work with developers to create new products that match requirements of the company’s target customer. Product sales pay for the costly process of product development, but with low sales come low revenue and angry executives whose businesses have to swallow the development costs. Marketers attempt to keep new products profitable by conducting market tests to predict popularity among target market members. Marketers change any aspect or feature unpopular with potential customers before releasing the product to the public.
About Focus Groups
Focus groups are the most popular way to test market new products. Although other types of test marketing may be used, focus groups are the industry standard. Focus groups are moderator-lead teams consisting of about eight to 12 members who use, review and discuss the product. The goal of the focus group moderator is to direct people to have lengthy discussions on their thoughts and feelings regarding the new product.
Focus Group Advantages
The interaction between the focus group members offers a distinctive, natural commentary on the product. Many focus groups are held in special rooms that have a one-way mirror wall that allows marketers, developers and executives to witness the focus group’s activity firsthand. This offers observational insights into the needs of target consumers. Observers or moderators may notice behaviors or trends with focus group members and change the product accordingly.
Focus Group Disadvantages
Marketers and developers may be misled about the needs of their consumers because focus groups represent a small fraction of the target market, and they might not represent the actual preferences of the majority of customers. Moderators often press group participants to offer solutions to product issues, and rushed illogical answers may result from the pressure. Focus group members are regular customers and not industry professionals, so their product solutions are often unfeasible.
Online Focus Groups
Online focus groups test the new product individually and participate in moderator-lead discussions either through instant message, in a chat room or over video conferencing. Online focus groups aid marketers who have small target markets because it’s easier to find a specific set of people online. Also, the lack of geographical limitation means the groups can include members from all over the country (or even the world). Disadvantages to online focus groups include lack of the ability to observe the participants, missing verbal inputs and insufficient moderator control.
Also called individual depth interviews, or IDIs, this type of testing consists of a single person testing the product. After the product test, a trained interviewer asks a series of questions about the product. This reduces pressure to conform to the group and may illicit more honest responses than team testing. However, IDIs limit advantageous group dynamics, and they are more expensive than focus groups.