Focus groups were held between February and April 1998 in Germany, Italy, India and China. The topic of the focus groups was the use of mobile phones. The goal was to compare whether people use the cell phone in different ways or for different purposes. In each country, four focus groups with five to eight participants each were conducted, each session taking about three hours. For the conduction of the focus groups outside Germany I relied heavily on the assistance of local teams, but accompanied all focus groups as supervisor and observer. In the following I will give two examples of the results.
After the warming-up phase, the first focus group question was: "Why did you buy a mobile phone?". While in all countries participants said they used the phone for work, the following differences came up:
In Germany, emergencies and time planning/ managing delay were the most important topics concerning the decision of buying a mobile phone. The concern for time management was also reflected by the demand for time organizing functions, which only came up in the German groups. On the very contrary, in China, staying in contact with friends all the time and fostering relationship was much more important. For the Indians, convenience and independence of the infrastructure was the main reason for the using mobile phones. In Italy, the mobile phone was sometimes to be an accessory, something you just have to have.
It is interesting to see that very different topics (timemanagement, security, fostering of relationships) were linked to the motives for buying a mobile phone. The focus groups gave support in finding out which cultural context is going to be the relevant cultural context concerning the purchase of a mobile phone.
Not only differences in the buying-decision, but also differences between the cultural groups regarding the actual mobile phone use came up. For example, the different cultural backgrounds influence the way how to learn the use of mobile phones.
For Chinese, the sales clerk is the most important source of information. They like to get step-by-step information about basic functions. Only the Chinese asked for videos to show procedures. Contrary to this, Germans use the conventional user manual as main information source. They prefer to get a clear and fast overview over all possible functions ( Honold, in press). In Italy,