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Online Market Research Communities

Online Market Research Communities
Luke Stafford
By: Luke Stafford
Updated: 25 February, 2022 17:01
Posted: 16 November 2020, 09:41

Table of Contents


According to market leaders in the United States, Fuel Cycle, in the age of constant market disruption, business leaders have found that their greatest competitive strategy is to have a direct relationship with their most valuable asset, their customers. A market research online community serves to gather a group of trusted customers who have willingly opted in to engage in research activities including quantitative and qualitative studies on an ongoing basis. From, this consumer research is conducted using a variety of different market research tools.

What is an online market research community?

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. Be sure to check out our guide on Market Research Communities for further information. This guide will answer questions like: 

  1. How to build an online community?
  2. What makes up an online community 
  3. Where can I learn more about Bounce’s online community?

What are they used for?

Market research has faced significant challenges over the last decade, with an explosion of consumer uncertainty due to rapidly changing behaviours and trends, combined with transformative technologies that consumers engage with on a daily basis. This has left researchers with outdated methodologies and technologies. As a result, many companies are turning to online research communities for decision-making advantage; harnessing the power of communities but applying them to the research process.

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) which help to create Behavioural Data. 

In essence, online communities become the catalyst for consumer-centric decision making and consumer insights at a speed unparalleled to traditional market research methods. They have allowed agencies and panel providers to gather actionable agile insights in real-time. By having your customers at your fingertips, a company can move from ‘we think’ to ‘we know’ and make strategic decisions accordingly.

But the users themselves also benefit from these online communities. They’re placed amongst like-minded individuals and in turn, feel a sense of belonging which helps to increase CX and supports a culture of engagement. From this, brand ambassadors can be created. By keeping them in the loop of your companies activity they can feel like an external VIP and has been shown to share positive brand messaging through word-of-mouth. 

Common FAQ’s around online market research communities  

  1. How to do market research using market research communities?
    1. By using precise questions that will return insights that be used to guide strategic decision making in the business. 
  2. What are some examples of online market research communities?
    1. A company that sells primarily baby products using a group of mother aged 20 – 45 to better understands how to launch a new product offering. 
  3. Why are market research communities better than paid focus groups?
    1. It’s more cost effective due to the direct link with the desired target audience. 
  4. How can I design a survey for an online market research community? 
    1. By contacting a member of our dedicated account management team.

What are their advantages?

In order to understand the growing popularity of online market research communities, we’re going to focus on the benefits given to brands, agencies and the respondents themselves:

  • Benefits to Brands: Co-creation and brand advocacy are the leading benefits to brands engaging regularly with their online communities. Benefits include:
  • Striking a balance between outsourcing complex research to agencies and focusing in-house on quick turnaround projects  
  • Facilitating real-time dialogue between marketing and customers:
    • a high level of engagement (more than 50 per cent response rates to surveys or discussions)
    • an extremely high quality of open text responses
  • Reacting rapidly to internal demands for information
  • Sense-checking ideas
  • Raising research’s internal profile – when insight is relevant and timely, it will be used more to drive change
  • Profiling context – enhance discussion threads and survey responses with demographics, attitudinal and purchasing behaviours
  • Benefits to Agencies: Media planning, advertising, PR, digital and MR agencies are embracing research communities – which can be white-labelled rather than branded and built around a general sample of the population or defined segments, such as early adopters or opinion formers. Benefits include:
  • Winning new clients due to an enhanced pitching quality
  • Upselling opportunities by allowing clients engage in follow-up work with those communities
  • Allowing agencies to move beyond the project-by-project cycle
  • Boosting internal creativity and idea generation, by allowing external audiences to quickly evaluate your work.
  • Benefit to Respondents: Over the last decade, technology has empowered every consumer to publicly declare their opinion. Communities enable this empowerment, by giving each community member a seat at the table alongside the brand owner and the researcher. Benefits include:
  • Increased engagement and experience by participating more frequently, and alongside fellow community members
  • Increased impact by sharing results, findings and comparisons with the community
  • Increased recognition via social and monetary incentives for time commitment. From membership areas to loyalty programmes, members can thrive from their interaction with the community.

Growing Popularity

The Q3-Q4 Greenbook GRIT Report on market researchers found that 59% of respondents are already using this form of research methodology and a total of 80% are at the very least interested in them. This makes them the number #1 most adopted emerging research trend. Online communities even beat mobile-first surveys in terms of popularity, used by 54% of respondents. 

The future is in communities, and I hope this blog helped you understand what they are, how they can be leveraged and the win-win scenario they create for brands, agencies and consumers!

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