Online Surveys vs. Focus Groups – Which One Should Businesses Use In 2019?

Companies usually look to market research to learn the current market trends, the competitive landscape, and understand their customers’ needs, wants, and general behaviors. For conducting market research, an online survey is considered a powerful method. Focus groups, an alternative to surveys, can also be quite beneficial—but in different ways.

Both online surveys and focus groups are two widespread methods of market research. So, which method of market research is more reliable? Both methods have their own benefits and weaknesses. Let’s breakdown each method.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are a good way to get a discussion going, which tend to take place with a much smaller group of people in an interactive group setting. In focus groups, you can get relatively quick feedback from your customers after they use your products or services. It is essential to conduct the focus group session in a neutral location where all focus group participants are free to use and experiment with your offerings.

Benefits of Focus Groups

When it comes to effective ways of conducting market research, focus groups are considered an effective form. Most companies use focus groups to uncover ideas and issues that are important to their customers.

With focus groups, you can get to know the opinions your potential customers have about your products or services with a little context. It is one of the most personal kind of customer reviews accomplishable, as you hear from customers and potential customers in their own voices and words.

Weaknesses of Focus Groups

The process of focus groups for market research is lengthy and expensive. It is difficult to draw conclusions with focus groups, and likewise, it’s often difficult to convince people to give opinions freely. Plus, focus groups are more resource-intensive, especially when it comes to moderation and other related factors.

Online Surveys

When it comes to conducting market research with little investment, online surveys are often considered best. Drafting and designing an online survey is much easier than designing a focus group session. In little time, you can distribute a survey to different groups of respondents and send it regularly. Furthermore, as responses come in, they are automatically stored in a centralized and easy to reach, yet secure location.

Benefits of Online Surveys

An online survey is one of the fastest processes to receive customer feedback. The results can often be available within 24-48 hours. Without investing a ton of resources, you can receive conclusive, instantaneous response data from online surveys.

Many online survey tools are available to help you get thoughtful feedback conveniently, and they require less time to send and receive to a large group than setting up focus groups.

Weaknesses of Online Surveys

To conduct the online surveys, sometimes recruiting the right participants is difficult, and this can lead to inaccurate response data. Additionally, given that there is no moderator, there are chances that some respondents’ could misinterpret what is being asked. Lastly, unless there are open-ended questions included, data are typically limited to quantitative only.


Both focus groups and online surveys are effective forms for market research purposes. Focus groups are the reliable and open-ended approach to gather conversational, interaction-based feedback or to help gather ideas about what consumers think about your services, products, or different business strategies.

Ultimately, the choice of online survey vs. focus group comes down to your research questions and goals. If you value highly interactive and conversational feedback, few things are better than a focus group. However, if you value quick quantitative feedback across greater diversity of respondents, choose online surveys for your research.

Choosing the right research method is imperative and can make all the difference. So, if you are confused which type of data gathering process you should use, a focus group or a survey, to conduct your market research, dwell on the nature of the insights and the feedback that you are looking for before you choose.

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