Why the MR buzz around online insights communities is long overdue

The pace of tech-driven transformation in the market research industry is now so rapid that a clear gap is emerging between the winners and losers. The technologies that are leading the race have three things in common: they address real pain points in the industry, they’re easy to adapt to individual business needs, and, most importantly for many, they’re affordable.

One such technology is online communities. Pioneers in this space have long predicted how insights communities will reshape the way strategic insights are delivered and redefine what’s possible when it comes to timelines and budget. And the recent Q3-Q4 2017 GRIT report has proven these theories correct. Online communities emerged as the most adaptable technology, with 60% of those surveyed saying they already use this method, and 22% saying it is ‘under consideration’.

The report also suggests online communities have become so widely used in MR that the technology is now considered mainstream. This follows the same path of adoption as mobile surveys – which are now so ubiquitous they no longer feature as an ‘emerging’ approach in the report.

So what makes online communities so appealing to the MR industry in comparison to other technologies?

Here are six key benefits:

1. Building a longitudinal data asset

The dynamics of consumer behaviour now changes so fast that creating one or two touch points is not enough to get an accurate read on shifting sentiment. Online insight communities enable us to engage people in an ongoing dialogue and more accurately map the evolving customer journey over time.

2. Accessing in-the-moment insights

We make decisions in-the-moment; therefore, we need to be collecting data in the moment to get the depth and richness required to tell the customer story. Rather than asking your participants what they did in the past or what they are willing to do in the future, through communities, you can understand what they are thinking now, in the present, and why.

3. Expanding recruitment methods

The online panel population only offers limited sources to recruit from. Community technology allows us to reach beyond the online panel pool by, for instance, tapping into a client’s database or recruiting through offline methodologies such as CATI, face-to-face or intercept studies.

4. Engaging with harder-to-reach groups

It’s well evident that particular segments of the online population are more likely to engage in longer surveys, making it difficult to recruit certain valuable cohorts. However, online communities provide an opportunity to change existing methodologies by breaking a once 30-minute survey into, say, five minutes of activities a day over a six-day period. This encourages participation from time-poor, professional respondents – exactly the types of customers many businesses need to target.

5. Shortening the project timeline

With declining budgets and an increasing pressure to deliver strategic insights faster, time is now the most valuable currency. Online communities enable researchers to connect with their target audiences, engage them in research activities and then learn from their data in real time – increasing the speed to insight.

6. Making limited budgets go further

If the last big tech trend to shake up MR was mobile, the next one is going to be automation.

By choosing to run online communities using a SAAS platform, it’s possible to get deep-level insights at a much lower cost. Such technology combines panel recruitment, scripting, and project management tools under one roof while automating data collection and visualisation. This drives huge efficiencies across the lifecycle of a project and gives researchers more time to focus on deriving strategic actions from the insights.

So why are some businesses still yet to leverage this tech?

I believe the major misconception lies in perceived response bias. Some believe the online community sample may not be fully representative (especially if taken from a customer database, or third-party sources, for example), and it may not be feasible in the long term. However, if a community is built in the right way using robust recruitment techniques, it can in fact not only be authentic and representative but much more engaged. This is where a tech provider needs to act as a true collaborator to help clients build a balanced and sustainable community.

At Ekas, we believe in the power of online communities to transform how customer research is conducted, now and in the future. That’s why we launched our own customer insight platform – Possie – last year. However, we also understand the role of research professionals – whether at the service provider level or research agency level – has never been more important. By working together can we really tap into the great potential that online communities provide.

Sagar Soni
Head of Business Development – APAC

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About AMSRS 386 Articles
The Australian Market & Social Research Society Limited (AMSRS) is a not-for-profit professional membership body of over 2,000 market and social research professionals who are dedicated to increasing the standard and understanding of market and social research in Australia. The Society assists members to develop their careers by heightening professional standards and ethics in the fields of market and social research.

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