Online Market Research Communities have become the most widely adopted new research technique of the last 20 years, going from innovative ideas to mainstream research tools in record time. However, still many companies are only learning about them now. In this post, we’ll provide an all-encompassing guide to online market research communities, how to build one, their benefits and what’s in their future.
An Online Market Research Community is a closed network of profiled, opted-in research participants who take part in structured and unstructured qualitative research tasks. Usually hosted over a long term basis, a research community is one key way brands stay close to their customers across multiple projects. The set up is ideal for listening to common themes and trends, whilst running a layer of stakeholder led insight projects on topics important to a brand.
As the world becomes more connected, customer-centricity must be built into the fabric of the organisation. Communication with your customers should be an everyday exercise, rather than a quarterly research report delivered to employees via email. Online communities provide this link to target customers for any type of research you may need to carry out on a day-to-day basis.
When it comes to building an online community, you should ask yourself a series of questions. The some of the core decisions that you need to make relate to the following areas:
There are certain pitfalls that must be avoided to achieve long-term success with a Online Market Research Community. Firstly, you can’t under-resource your community; engagement is dependent on incentives. If community members don’t think their opinions are being valued, then they will get frustrated and it reflects poorly on the brand. Finding the right level of engagement is important; don’t overwork your community with complicated research or underwork them with rare surveys and a lack of rewards. It’s also a good habit to be transparent about what the community’s data is contributing to, this has the added benefit that it helps form a community brand. This would also imply that you as the company need to be measuring the impact and accurately tracking the progress of the community. You need tangible metrics to get the most out of your community.
As online communities become a mainstream research method, technology is racing to meet its needs. At the moment, many solutions involve make-shift websites, mobile-optimised browsers that fall short of lofty customer expectations on user experience. The future will demand more of these communities. According to the MRS, the three key challenges in the coming years will be around integration with other forms of customer data, obtaining on-demand/real-time insight and the agility required from new technologies to meet research demand.
An important change in market research is the embrace of agile market research. This is an approach that takes its inspiration from agile software development which values: numerous small experiments over a few large bets, rapid iterations over big-bang campaigns, testing and data over opinions and conventions, and responding to change over following a plan. Technology is adapting to agile market research and enabling rapid decision-making by the company. Read more about the other technology trends that are impacting market research communities here.
The true ‘end-to-end’ community allows meaningful dialogue between organisation and participant via an engaging member environment (e.g. a mobile app), participant management tool to build up member portraits and multiple dialogue channels (e.g. surveys, discussion forums, video focus groups, live chats and member interaction for idea generation).
In the 2017 GRIT Report, 60% of the world’s leading brands had an online insight community. There was market penetration of 82% by 2018, meaning online research communities have escaped their ‘niche’ title in favour of being a ‘mainstream’ methodology employed by almost every company around the world. A key reason for the growth of communities is the move to democratise insights. For some, this means granting access to the raw data, for others it means ensuring that the insights are made available in ways that do not require any specialised knowledge of research, in order to interpret and utilise.
At the heart of this is communities. A philosophy of customer-centricity will transcend an organisation if they have the ability to democratise the insights captured in a consistent and digestible manner. Most learning in the future will be iterative, based on approaches such as build-measure-learn, and the best way to democratise that in your organisation is through the centrality of communities. Learn more about how to achieve democratised insights in our blog here.