Focus groups are an important qualitative research tool used by marketers. Just as important as quantitative research, a focus group can help marketers understand the motivations, attitudes and feelings associated with consumer purchases (Mcdaniel & Gates, 2008). Focus groups are typically small groups of customers along with an interviewer or moderator who meet to discuss specific products or services.
Market researchers invest significant time and resources on the use of focus groups for consumer products. Starbucks has developed a cult-like following among customers in the United States. The company has used focus groups for minor details such as the color of the coffee bags. Interestingly enough, during a recent focus group, competitor Dunkin Donuts paid several customers $100 to drink coffee at Starbucks for a week. It also paid Starbucks customer the same amount to buy their coffee from Dunkin Donuts. What it found is that the customers were polarized in their opinions regarding the two chains. Starbucks customers found Dunkin Donut stores to be “sterile and uninviting” (Adamy, 2014).
Culturally, Japanese citizens favor tea over coffee, although coffee consumption has risen according to the Japan Tea Central Association (AJW by The Asahi Shimbun, 2014). Armed with statistics on tea versus coffee consumption, Starbucks could surmise that it would be beneficial to open stores in Japan. However, the qualitative nature of a focus group would tell the company how potential customers will feel about store décor, packaging, taste, and ambience. The focus group tool has been termed an “experiencing” approach (Mcdaniel & Gates) because it allows the marketer to an opportunity to “experience the emotional framework” of product usage. For a market as similar to the United States, yet as diverse as Japan is, it is critical for Starbucks to see what flesh and blood consumers actually want and value before they introduce new products into Japan.
- Adamy, J. (2014). Dunkin’ DonutsTries to Go Upscale,But Not Too Far. [online] Retrieved from: http://online.wsj.com/
- AJW by The Asahi Shimbun. (2014). Tea consumption increasing, beating coffee – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun. [online] Retrieved from: http://ajw.asahi.com/
- Mcdaniel, C. D. & Gates, R. H. (2008). Marketing research essentials. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.