Why it is advisable to conduct a Focus Group before Launching a New Product in India

Even during the times of advanced analytics and data-driven market intelligence, Focus Group (FG) Interviews continue to play an important role in modern market research. 

It helps the researcher to gain deeper insights into the consumer thought process. It highlights the opinions, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, etc about a product/ services/ business idea, etc. It is estimated that over 70% of the Market Research Budget is spent on focus group interviews in fortune 500 enterprises, further underlining the importance of FG as a research tool. 

The scope of Focus Group is vast. Focus Group  are conducted in various research activities 

  • Market profiling 
  • Market segmentation 
  • Market share analysis
  • Product positioning 
  • Product development and launch 

Alongside various other research objectives, companies and investors these days conduct a Product Focus Group (PFG) to gain insight into customers’ reactions to a new product that is being planned to be launched. It is a great way to know customers’ reactions to a product before it is released in the market. 

What is a Product Focus Group?

It is a qualitative market research technique to understand the thoughts and opinions of the target consumers regarding products planned to be launched. Companies conduct a focus group with around ten to thirteen participants and they generally have similar buying behaviors, demographic profiles, and income groups as the company’s existing customer base. 

The participants are asked to review the products and share their thoughts, suggestions, comments, and feedback. The feedback collected in the focus group is minutely analyzed by the product team and if needed is incorporated in improving and enhancing the product. 

It is an ideal way to understand what the majority of customers are looking for in the product. To find the best results, companies are advised to conduct at least 3/4 focus groups. This helps in collecting diverse opinions and will allow the company to accurately understand consumer responses. 

Product Focus Group Prior to New Product Launch in India 

India is one of the fastest-growing retail markets in the world. It is estimated that by 2030, the size of the Indian consumer market will reach USD 6 trillion. The market is marked by a rise in disposable income and evolving consumer behavior, which further makes it an attractive proposition for international retail players. Increasingly new products in various retail segments are launched in India every month. This includes but is not limited to fashion & apparel, lifestyle, consumer electronics, utensils & packaging, food products, furniture, health, and wellness, etc. 

However, India is also a complex market. It is multifaceted, diverse, and is continuously evolving at an unprecedented pace. Moreover, product launches are tedious, cumbersome, and expensive tasks. It requires a huge investment of time and capital to find suitable vendors, source raw materials, conduct product R&D, and launch marketing. 

Despite so much of expenses, in a complex market like India, there is no guarantee that the product will be liked or not. A failed launch will mean a huge loss of capital. 

Hence, it is advisable to conduct prior research to understand more about the perceptions and thought processes of consumers. Exercise like a focus group can be undertaken at the prototype stage itself to learn more about consumers, solicit their feedback, and accordingly finetune/ enhance the product. 

The focus group can also tell whether to go with the product or not. Product owners are generally emotionally attached to the product. However, a focus group can render honest feedback. 

Advantages of Conducting Focus Groups

Focus groups allow companies to know what customers want, need, and value in a product. Some of the major advantages of conducting product focus groups are discussed below:

Obtain honest and instant feedback on products - Product focus groups help companies understand what their customers like and don't like about the products. Participants of the focus groups confidently give their thoughts and opinions about the product, if the host conducting the focus group is appreciative of their feedback. Thus, it is the best way for the company to seek instant and genuine reviews on the products. 

Improve Quality of the Product – In the prototyping stage, a company launching a product may not be aware of some features that can be incorporated into the product to enhance its quality. Focus groups will help the company have a better idea of the product and also features that they can include in the product to make it more effective, valuable, and enjoyable to the end consumers. 

Explore Unique and Distinct Ideas – Discussing a product in focus groups may help the company to come across some brilliant ideas or inputs that otherwise would have not been possible for them to think of. Focus group helps the company gain a better idea of products, and learn about features that their customers want to see in their product. This may also provide the company with some unique and distinct ideas for the product that will help them launch the product exactly as per the expectation of their customers.  

Whether to Launch or Not: In certain cases, a focus group can give a lot of valuable insights on whether to really launch a product or not. Launching a product is an expensive exercise and since product owners are very emotionally attached to the product, they sometimes miss out on the key aspects. It is very much possible that the product to be launched might be a disaster and end up in a loss of thousands of dollars. In such cases, a focus group can be a real savior and help companies save a lot of money by giving honest and accurate feedback. 

How to Create Product Focus Groups?

To conduct a successful focus group, the companies need to recruit the right participants and set the objectives, they wish to unravel. Companies should follow the below-given steps to successfully conduct their product focus groups:

Set Objectives - Before conducting a focus group the companies need to set the objectives that they wish to obtain. Every company may have a different set of goals like getting insight on the product effectiveness before its release, discovering features or updates that can be added to make the product, etc. Once the company sets the goals/ objectives, they can develop research questions to ask participants. The questions should be aligned with the objectives to be accomplished. The company should discuss with managers, executives, product experts, and other stakeholders to learn about questions to ask during the focus group.

Casting Call Creation - The Company after setting the goals and developing the questions will have a clear idea of who to recruit for the focus group. The company needs to consider a few aspects like demographics and customers' buying habits and should find people who match these characteristics because this will increase the accuracy of the focus group results. The company can also have a mix of existing and potential customers in their focus group depending on their objectives. The company can also get in touch with the participants through online casting calls.  The company should have a good number of participants and should divide them into groups based on age, location, and buying habits.  

Choose a Location to Host Focus Group - Company should choose an ideal location to host their focus group, as the location should be easily accessible, for their staff as well as the participants. The company should also ensure that there is enough space in the selected area and should also make sure that there are enough privacy and limited distractions for the participants. All the participants should be well aware of the address in advance so that they easily reach the destination on time and don't have any traveling issues. The company should also make proper sitting arrangements before the arrival of the participants.

Pick a Moderator for Running the Focus Group - The company should select a moderator having leadership or teaching experience to run the focus groups. The moderator should be personable and should have excellent communication skills to lead the conversation and should also be competent in taking control of the situation and ensuring that participants answer the necessary questions and they should not deviate from the topic.  

Prepare a Discussion Guide - Company should prepare a script or discussion guide for the moderator that will help them while communicating with participants. They should be ready with the questions they would ask participants to help the company understand more about the participant's opinions on the product. The questions that have to be asked must be in proper order so that the host looks confident and prepared for the focus group.

Be Ready with Participants' Materials - Company should also be prepared with the instructions, product details, and discussion topics for the participants that have to be discussed during the focus group. This will help the company to know why they asked the participant to attend the discussion, their expectation from the session, the purpose of the focus group, and the goals they are hoping to achieve from the focus group. The company can also research their brand or ask participants to respond to a survey before the focus group because this will make the participants feel more prepared for the focus group.

Don’t allow Participants to Deviate – The host of the focus group should be well on target throughout the session to make sure that every necessary topic is covered before the end of the focus group. If the discussion switches to another direction, then the moderator should take the initiative to bring participants back to the questions that they have been asked to answer. Team members during the discussion may either study the focus group or can take notes of the participants’ answers to analyze and evaluate them later. 

Final Review - After the completion of the focus group, the company should review and analyze their notes. Group answers should be compared with one another to find many similarities. If similar suggestions or comments are shared by most of the participants, then those suggestions should be seriously taken and the company should act upon them to improve or enhance the product.

About the India Watch 

The India Watch is a market research and business intelligence consulting focused on the Indian market and economy. We offer usable data and actionable insights to help enterprises with their business growth objectives In India. Alongside numerous key sectors in India, we also work extensively with retail companies in India. Our range of research and consulting services for the retail sector include: 

  • Conduct market research surveys, qualitative interviews, focus group interviews, etc. 
  • Offer custom-made product launch intelligence and research services that include- market scanning & opportunity assessment, industry analysis, customer segmentation, competitive analysis, growth planning, distribution structure study, growth planning, marketing strategy planning, etc. 
  • Work as research partners for retail companies and investors and offer them regular market-related data and insights. 
  • We can also help our clients with data-centric communication such as white papers, research reports, thematic reports, video reports, corporate deck, etc. 
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