Why should I join a focus group? A guide for Generation Z

Group of young people viewing laptop as part of market research

Opinions –  everyone’s got one. And there’s no shortage of platforms to share them on. From online satisfaction surveys to live chats and social media, brands are hungry for them. It can feel like shouting into a void, but it doesn’t have to be one-sided exchange. You can make some quick, easy cash by taking part in a focus group.

What is a focus group?

Focus groups are a popular way for brands and organisations to collect qualitative data. A focus group is a small, moderated group discussion usually involving around 6-8 participants who give feedback on products, marketing campaigns and concepts. They usually last around 60-90 minutes.

Most consumer focus groups take place in special market research facilities in central locations in your town or city. You’re unlikely to be asked to travel to a remote industrial estate or village hall.

How are focus group respondents chosen?

Anyone who is 18 or over and a UK resident can apply to take part. Most research companies limit the number of focus groups you can attend with them, and you may not get selected immediately. But, you’re free to register with lots of companies at once, and it’s easy and quick to get started. Researchers are particularly interested in Generation Z. You’re the digital natives that are working on and studying the next phase of technology and business development, so your insights on fashion, trends and tech are valued! Start with what you’re interested in, what you like to buy and talk about and find research companies that match up.

You’ll be asked to provide some information about yourself in an online application form when you register. After that, it’s a waiting game to see when you might be contacted about a focus group in your area. Typically, you’ll be alerted via an email or text message from the research company asking if you are interested. It’s likely that they’ll have sent this message to lots of their contacts so reply quickly to maximise your chance of being selected.

At this point you’ll be asked to fill in a screener survey to confirm you fit the profile for the particular group, either online or over the phone (or possibly in a two-stage process where you answer some questions online and afterwards receive a phone call). Be honest in your answers, as you may be asked extra questions when you turn up for a focus group to confirm that the information you provided earlier is accurate.

If the research company does call you, treat this like a mini job interview – they will be using this call to assess whether you’ll be a valuable member of the group. Research companies want focus group participants who are confident and articulate in expressing their views but not so over-bearing that they dominate the group and prevent others from getting their points across.

How much will I earn from a paid focus group?

Most paid focus groups offer cash-in-hand incentives, paid on the day (which are also intended to pay you back for any travel expenses), although some offer vouchers instead.

The amount you can earn varies, but it’s typically between £40-£80 for consumer focus groups. For more niche focus groups e.g. for respondents with a specific medical condition, the earning potential is generally higher, and could go as high as £150-£180.

What should I expect from a focus group?

On the day itself, give yourself time to register and settle in. Turn up about 15 minutes early and bring some photo ID. Latecomers are usually turned away, which means no expenses will be paid.

Typically, you’ll get snacks, tea and coffee and sit around a large table or in a circle. The moderator will introduce themselves, and probably ask an icebreaker like “what do you do?” to kick things off.

Discussion should be relaxed, chatty and honest. There are no right or wrong answers, just say what you feel. The moderator might try and nudge you to elaborate on an answer to move the discussion along or get some more insight, but there shouldn’t be any pressure if you feel you’ve said enough.

Although the session is generally run by one person asking questions and taking notes, focus groups are often observed by the client or researchers sitting behind one-way glass.

However, it’s not the case with every focus group, and you can easily tell the set up as there will be a large mirrored window on one wall, and your moderator should let you know too.

If the incentives are being paid in cash, you should be able to pick yours up on the way out. As with any cash payment, it’s a good idea to count it immediately as mistakes are difficult to rectify afterwards.

What is expected of me in a focus group?

A focus group is intended to be candid, and the moderator will typically ask 5-10 questions which should be very specific, short and to the point. In turn, make sure your answers stay on point, but give more than a yes or no answer. Like any discussion, differences of opinion will arise, but it’s not a debate.

It’s great when a group gets on well, but side conversations can derail a session. The clue is in the name, focus groups only work when every stays focused!

How will my focus group responses be used?

Any reputable market research company should operate within GDPR guidelines, which means they have to explain how your personal data is going to be used, and whether they’ll be sharing with third parties (most likely the end client/brand for the research). The research company might avoid disclosing who the client is until the end of the session in case it influences or inhibits discussion.

However, they must obtain your explicit agreement to the sharing of data, e.g. by asking you to tick a box on the screener giving your consent or by asking you to sign a form when you arrive.

Your moderator will usually take notes during the session, but the focus group could be recorded or filmed in line with market research regulations , which they should advise you about in advance.

Want to join a paid focus group? Sign up with FieldworkHub at www.fieldworkhub.com/for-respondents