In the 2013 GRIT report, online insight communities sat at the top of the list for emerging technologies that market research clients actually want to use, beating out mobile surveys, social media mining, and text analytics for the honor. (A summary of this is illustrated nicely in an infographic.)
Given how personalized most other services (Amazon) and social avenues (Pandora, Pinterest) have become, I didn’t find the results altogether that surprising, especially when taken in the context of concept or product testing. Online market research communities (aka insight communities or MROCs) provide a more personal avenue to communicating and interacting with your customers than any of the other technologies on the list.
Part of this intimacy is due to the nature of the community platform. Customers are given quick polls, discussion prompts, pictures to mark up, or a chance to upload a video of their own (to name a few of the common tasks). All these touches inspire participants to share their true opinions about a concept to you (a captive audience).
The results, taken together or by looking at each participant, are more compelling and revelatory than a quant “like or don’t like” scale from 1 to 5 because it provides the “why” behind their choices and actions (or lack thereof). It becomes a new and often unexpected way to look at your topic; you see it as they do, in detail.
And as an added bonus, you get juicy keywords, targeted marketing messages, and more all in one package.
Quick case studies: insight communities in use
To further illustrate the benefits of MROCs in concept testing, I wanted to share a couple of short case studies. At the close of each of their communities, the companies came away with both short- and long-term recommendations for their concepts from engaged (and now, even more loyal) customers.
Case 1: A manufacturer, which offers a wide variety of products under several brand names, wanted to launch a new product under their private label and test the consumer acceptance of a number of potential product concepts in the home goods space. Their community revealed purchase likelihood, price point sensitivity, marketing believability, uniqueness of each concept, and brand implications.
Case 2: A national grocery chain was reconsidering their digital landscape and wanted to get feedback on their web elements, future ideas, and apps. In their community, they asked customers to react to screen shots, overall layout, usability, and future concepts. They were also able to discern from participants what customers actually wanted from a grocery store’s online presence, giving the company a broader sense of topics and products they might not have thought of before.
Case 3: A CPG company used an insight community as a vehicle to gather feedback from an in-home product usage test, the second part of the 3-part process. First, customers were surveyed online to determine which segment they belonged in, current feelings and likelihood to purchase this type of product, and of course, whether they would be willing to participate in further research. Those that opted in received the product at their homes. Then in the community, participants kept a daily journal of product usage as well as a running tally of their general thoughts about it, types of goods like it, and the brand in general. Lastly, participants were sent a similar online survey to the first to determine what variables might have changed after their in-home experience.