Online Focus Groups

Online Focus Group

The Way To Engage And Understand You Customers In Our Digital Age

Customers Are Changing: Are Your Research Methodologies?

Technology and its connectivity has totally transformed how we communicate in our professional and personal lives.  To capitalise on this change and better reach today's consumers, the approach to qualitative research (gaining insight from discussion) has been adapted to the ‘social era’ by blending the traditional face-to-face focus groups with digital methodology to create moderated online discussion boards.

Online discussions are an ideal way to discuss private and sensitive topics, understand complex issues, interact with hard to engage audiences and reach geographically spread target markets.

Over the last two years, we have used online discussions as a highly effective research tool for topics such as understanding consumer behaviour and experiences, target market segmentation, new market analysis, new product development and advertisement concept and product label testing.  We have worked directly with clients as well as through consultants and research agencies.  Our end clients have included multi-nationals, Government Agencies, manufacturers/exporters and retailers. 


The COVID-19 Solution - Online Discussion Boards:



Online discussions provide a comfortable space and environment for participants to share their thoughts and opinions.  As we all face the challenges and stresses of COVID-19 and required social distancing, online discussions provide an ideal solution for conducting research projects traditionally suited to face-to-face focus groups.


Online Discussion Client Feedback:

I worked with Rachel on behalf of a technology client which was entering the b2b market and seeking the perspectives of small business owners about existing and future products. Rachel drove the project, provided excellent customer service, and delivered a very comprehensive report on time and budget.' Paul O'Leary, Director, Pursuit Public Relations, July 2020

We engaged TSMR to investigate how our new products would be received by different demographics and nationalities. The information we received was invaluable to decide which factors were important to which type of customer. We also tested our packaging and marketing materials and have since altered them based on the market feedback.’ Katherine Reardon, Waitaki Biosciences, December 2019


Online Discussion Participant Feedback:

Participants of all ages, gender, ethnic and socio-economic groups enjoy engaging in online discussion:
  • ‘Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this research. I found it very interesting seeing other people’s opinions and points of view… The interactive aspect was great and I enjoyed it. The fact that it was anonymous made me feel that I could write freely.’
  • ‘It was a real pleasure to have taken part in the online discussion. I enjoyed reading other people's comments, I felt that I came away with a better insight into the hardships and joys of your everyday person. The questions were very clear and understandable.’
  • ‘I really enjoyed it! It was very easy to follow and I like how it was split into sections that you could come back to. It made it very manageable and it wasn't too time consuming. I also thought the questions were all very interesting and relevant! I enjoyed participating.’
  • ‘Thank you for letting me be involved, I enjoyed the thought provoking questions, and I am sure that this will change the way I think about purchasing items in the future!’
  • ‘Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this innovative approach! I really enjoyed it, especially the anonymous aspect and getting to read other people’s responses.’
  • ‘The time allocated for this discussion board was great also - running this over 3 days meant that I was able to take my time and answer the questions with care, and login numerous times when it suited me.’
  • ‘I liked the online discussion board because I could do it in your own time, no travelling required to meet and have the discussion. It allows time to think, add more information, digest what others have said and comment. Not looking at my watch as you can in a live situation and wonder how much longer it’s going on for. No parking hassles or rush to get there after work if evening discussion group. I believe more likely to get people willing to participate due to ease of being able to do from home or a location of your choice in your own time.’

To receive more information and our Online Discussion Board flyer email


What is a Moderated Online Discussion Board?

Our moderated online discussions (AKA a private and secure online forum, online bulletin board, online board) are set up on a well-established platform.  Only participants invited to participate, login to respond to set open text questions and single or multiple-choice polls.

Once they comment on a topic, we encourage participants to comment and engage with other participant's earlier posts and illustrate their viewpoint by uploading documents, screenshots or images.

Interactive tools such as heat maps and white boards, add to the level of interest and engagement of participants.

We adhere to a structured discussion guide and clients have the option to login to observe the discussion.

We actively moderate our discussions to take advantage of the opportunity to seek clarification by probing and questioning responses as well as reinforcing participant's efforts.  Each participant knows they are engaging with a real moderator who will read what they have written, comment and when required ask for additional information to flesh out a response.

Our discussions typically run over a period of 3 days with participants, who meet the required demographics and criteria, logging in to the discussion on their PCs, tablets, iPads or phones from anywhere and at any time during the research period. 

To receive more information and an Online Discussion Board flyer email


The Benefits of Online Discussion:

It is easy to understand why our online discussion methodology is increasing in popularity with benefits such as:

High Quality and Quantity of Output:
  • High-quality, actionable insights in terms of relevance, depth and integrity.
  • Quality output containing rich verbatim quotations.
  • Anonymity which encourages more open and honest feedback.
  • Every participant responds to every question so less assertive people have a voice and their views are not overshadowed or dominated by more assertive individuals.
  • Fast turnaround of reporting with highly accurate verbatim transcripts immediately available.
Improved Quality of Discussion:
  • Heightened quality engagement as written responses provide time to reflect and synthesise information and the 3 day research period gives time to interact with participants and explore topics thoroughly.
  • Increased input from each participant with each individual contributing a total of 1 - 3 hours compared to an average 15 minutes verbal participation in a 2 hour face-to-face focus group with 8 participants
  • Opportunity for our moderator to actively engage with each participant to probe their responses to flesh out valuable information.
  • Reduced domination and influence - To mitigate against ‘group think’ and bias, all comments in an online forum can be ‘hidden’ until a participant has commented on the topic.
  • Blend of qualitative (gain insight from discussion) and quantitative (number crunching to identify patterns) with the inclusion of single and multiple-choice polls.
  • Increased quantity of responses as each participant provides their feedback to every question.
  • Interactive and engaging with the inclusion of visual aid tools such as heat maps, white boards and images.
Increased Participant Reach:
  • Appeal to all demographic segments including those often hard to involve in focus groups – Youth, professionals, management, time-pushed busy people, males and various ethnic groups.
  • No geographic constraints with a national reach including those geographically harder to reach i.e. rural consumers.
  • Preferred online environment as it provides a familiar and comfortable space to share thoughts and opinions.
  • Undoubtedly increased convenience for participants being able to login from anywhere at any time during the 3 day research period.


How Online Discussions Work:

  • We work with our clients to identify the topics and questions to be asked in order to meet their research objectives.
  • Our moderator creates a structured discussion guide and sets up the questions for the private online discussion.
  • Questions can be scheduled to be released over the period of the discussion as topics evolve.
  • We use the same screening procedures as focus groups to recruit participants and they each receive private and protected access.
  • Participants login to respond to questions, answer single or multi-choice polls and join open discussion topics.
  • Each participant must provide input on every topic resulting in a rich in-depth discussion.
  • It is similar to a focus group concept but procedure-wise comparable to commenting on Facebook or LinkedIn. Once a participant responds to a question they can view other participant's posts and they are then encouraged to respond to these posts and interact and engage with other participants.
  • Our moderator actively interacts with each participant, reinforcing their efforts and probing and questioning their responses.
  • Participants log in each day to read and respond to questions and comments by other participants and the moderator.
  • Participants can upload documents, screenshots or images to illustrate their viewpoints.
  • Clients can observe the online discussion.
  • A full transcript of the discussion is available.


How Online Discussions Work in Pictures:

Procedure-wise posting and commenting is similar to the concept of Facebook and LinkedIn although the project is completed on our private and secure online discussion platform.


Groups of questions can be scheduled to be released throughout the research project:


Single or multiple-choice polls provide quantitative (numerical data) responses to key questions in order to support the free text discussion:


Once a poll is answered, there is the option to display the current poll results to date, on the participant's screen:


For more information about running an online discussion board contact Rachel today

Download Trailblazer Research Online Discussion Flyer



Contact us

15 Dunmurry Place
Christchurch 8051
New Zealand



Running over 3 days meant I was able to take my time and answer the questions with care, and login numerous times when it suited me.

We tested our packaging and marketing materials and have since altered them based on the market feedback.

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this innovative approach!  I really enjoyed it.

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