Are Focus Groups seasonal?

Are focus groups seasonal? An interesting question, especially as more and more of the Country seems to shut down during the school holidays and sorting meeting dates becomes more challenging during those 6 weeks.  However, for most focus groups the holidays really aren’t an issue, there are still plenty of people in the focus group pool of consumers and for a large swath of the public, the summer months continue to be business as usual.

However, the golden rule of focus group participation remains, choose your date and time around the characteristics of your participants. So key points to consider:

 –   90% of our focus groups take place during a weekday evening this is the best time for most people of working age. Or really most people. It’s easy for someone to attend, no major plans have to be changed, it’s convenient and dropout rates are low.

 –   If you have a very seasonal audience, i.e. Farmers during harvest – then consider running groups during a less period.

 –   Friday evenings are a no go – no one turns up to a Friday night group.

–   Weekends are also a no go – people have plans and even an interesting focus group isn’t going to change that. (During my 25 years of running groups I have done one Saturday group, and this was part of a huge NHS consultation that bussed people in from across the UK and paid them a lot of money for a day of discussion.)

 –   The week before Christmas and the week after Christmas are tricky to recruit – not recommended.

 –   Best to avoid choosing a date when a major event is planned in the City you want your groups to take place in. I made the mistake of running a group in central Cardiff on the same evening as Take That were playing. Needless to say travel was a nightmare and only half the group made it on time.

 –   Consider any travel issues around your venue  i.e. planned engineering works or tube strikes.

 –   Personally I’m not a fan of the Monday evening groups because it leaves little time to replace people who have cancelled over the weekend.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules. If you are doing groups with older people, the unemployed, stay at home parents or students then a day time group can work. But even then, often evening ones are preferred because it’s easier for people to plan their time around an evening group, for example sorting childcare.

Your research team will help you plan the best time for your groups. As researchers, we are used to working evenings and odd hours to work around our participants. The key to a well-attended and well recruited group is to know your audience. Make it easy for them to attend without impinging on their routines too much and attendance and quality of recruitment should be good.