Technology has impacted virtually every facet of our lives – in the marketing world, it has fundamentally altered the relationship between brands and consumers. The balance of power has shifted, and consumers now expect far greater transparency from brands.
Fortunately, technology not only heightens expectations; it also offers solutions. For marketers and research professionals, now is the time to consider an insights community: a collaborative, contemporary way to engage consumers and yield game-changing insights.
An insights community is a group of consumers who gather online on an ongoing basis to share their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes about a category/brand. These folks are recruited once and deployed frequently across a wide variety of research topics and methodologies. The net effect is a continuous flow of consumer input to support key strategic and tactical decisions.
Community members can talk to each other and build off each other’s ideas while the brand can pose important questions and test concepts before going to market. Answers to questions using qualitative and quantitative market research techniques can be obtained almost instantaneously, and the use of mobile technology can enable community access at any time.
Insights communities reflect the convergence of consumer culture and research industry best practice. In today’s commercial culture, consumers increasingly use social media to express their opinions and have come to see their relationships with brands as an extension of their personal values. They have a stake in, and expect to have a say about, the brands they choose to trust.
In this new world, brands that put consumers at the center win – to drive innovation, shape marketing, and express brand beliefs. With the stakes so high, insights communities facilitate an ongoing, mutually supportive, highly productive consumer-brand connection.
Until recently, however, the market research industry has been slow to adapt to changing circumstances to adopt new approaches. The old model of gathering primary consumer insights doesn’t foster the ongoing conversation required for true customer centricity, and it no longer meets the needs of today’s brands for speed, efficiency, and diversity of learning approach.
Custom research is time-consuming, expensive, and yields isolated pockets of information. This type of research (slowly) yields a fresh batch of (expensive) respondents who have no frame of reference in terms of the work that has come before. Fundamentally, traditional primary research involves a series of transactional projects – when what the modern, customer-focused enterprise needs is a cohesive insights program.
For this reason, we have seen and are leading a shift to insights communities. Communities promote better data and more engaged respondents – faster and at lower cost.
With many options out there, what makes an online community successful, and how do you choose the right partner? In our experience designing online communities, Finch Brands has boiled success down to six key elements:
Member Engagement is Critical: Community member involvement leads to high participation rates and more genuine answers. Gamefication approaches, for example, make insights activities novel and enjoyable, helping to drive engagement. Consumers must have fun.
Analysis & Guidance is What Counts: On its own, data is meaningless. You need a team who can read between the lines and turn data into actionable businesses insights. To do this, look for a cross-disciplinary analysis team that possesses a mix of research and marketing skills, and a background in analyzing both primary and secondary data.
The Value of Full Service Community Management: A full-service approach to community management includes content creation, analysis, and reporting. Having all three is the most efficient way to make communities the centerpiece of your market research program.
Best in Class Platform is Mandatory: To keep users coming back, your platform (the site that houses the community) should be engaging and include modern design elements. It is also essential that it is scalable, and can be customized to accommodate communities of any size. Finally, member-to-member communication and functionality must be available quickly and at any time.
Think Through The Partner Role in the Workflow: Take an honest look at your company’s strong suits, as well as where will you need additional support. The right partner for your company is the one who fills these gaps, while complementing what your brand does best. Some community vendors see themselves as technology companies first; others as researchers – make sure your partner is strong where you need it.
Leveraging the Power of Communities for Innovation: While communities can answer questions across the product lifecycle, innovation leads to the refinement of product concepts at each successive research step. Communities are designed to promote creation and collaboration, so activities should allow for innovation and an engaging member experience. The result – validated, authentic innovation!
Insights communities simultaneously address two of the most important issues in market research – embracing customer centricity while streamlining the cost and process of gathering data. Market research is based on the belief that consumer input can help companies make good decisions. Given where we are in our commercial culture, this is true now more than ever – and communities are often the most effective way to listen and lead.