Editor’s note: Jamin Brazil is CEO of marketing research firm FocusVision, Fresno, Calif.  

In The Wall Street Journal last year there was an article that explored innovations in technology, big data and social media monitoring. It argued that, given the growth of new ways of listening to customers, focus groups are no longer a relevant way of finding insights. But I would argue that in the advent of this tech explosion, focus groups are an even more powerful tool.

The focus group is not dead. In fact, if you look at the new technology available to set up, run and communicate the results of groups, it’s easy to see we are entering the third age of focus groups. There have been massive progressions in digital sharing, storage and streaming. We can now run and record groups from multiple locations – bringing people together to get a mix of views and finding people in out-of-the-way places.

But more than that, technology is really making the focus group accessible, giving voice to people who would not normally be able to take part in research and allowing people to set up and run groups who would previously have found them impossible. Given the new technology, researchers can run and record a group from anywhere. This convenience has improved the opportunities for listening and engaging with consumers.

In the world of big data and social media listening described by The Wall Street Journal, the focus group is now even more vital in helping us understand not only what is happening in the minds and lives of consumers but why – and therefore what actions to take. I am certain that with the growth of big data the focus group will become even more important.

Let’s just look at last year’s election. Big data was not a problem. We saw a lot of quantitative polling data bandied around from a myriad of sources. Daily polls scrutinized the candidates’ performances at every turn. The polls fed off the...