Yahoo Snuffing Focus Groups

    November 10, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

The portal company decided in September to do away with traditional focus groups for research, and switched to the use of “immersion groups” instead.

Why immersion groups? BusinessWeek noted how Yahoo’s chief marketing officer Cammie Dunaway described the concept at a Silicon Valley conference.

Yahoo has been getting little useful information from such groups, says Dunaway. She prefers “immersion groups” — four or five people with whom Yahoo’s product developers talk informally, without a professional moderator typical of focus groups. That leads to work sessions in which a few select consumers work together with Yahoo staffers to actually design a new product. “The outcome is richer if they feel included in our process, not just observed,” says Dunaway.

Dunaway, a former Frito-Lay executive, said of Yahoo: “My research department doesn’t know it, but I’m killing all our focus groups.” Yahoo’s recent debut of its Autos Custom site came as a result of the shift to immersion group research.

For businesses that may be large enough to bring in focus groups, Yahoo’s change to immersion could be a good reason to try it as well. Picking a handful of valued, insightful consumers and sitting them down with a couple of key developers might provide a key to unlocking better experiences for customers. From there, higher conversions could follow.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.