Online communities are also called “Market Research Online Community” It is a form of qualitative research where a group of people is asked about their perception, feedback, and ideas about the product and service and any topic of interest. Questions are posted to the entire group or private with different interactive research activities such as polls, image markups, discussion boards, multimedia exercises, etc.
Online research communities follow the format of focus groups and modify it for the 21st century. It can gather up to 50- 150 people in a virtual setting for qualitative research and provide member’s opinions and feedback on products, services, or concepts. And also, the interaction between the one another via computer, tablet or mobile phone.
Online research communities are emerging and developing areas in market research. They are making use of development in web technology. It is great alternative to traditional research communities and more time-consuming methods. In the last 20 years, people are relying on technology to find solutions to their everyday tasks. Online research communities allow them to conduct effective qualitative research online in a cost-effective way.
They also are accessed from anywhere and anytime, so they can fit into participant’s busy lives. Online research has changed snail mail to email, local banking to online banking, paper catalogs to online ordering, books to e-Readers, blind dates to dating websites. The Internet often provides quicker and easier ways to get things done.
Online research communities are no different from local market research. The market research process done in person can be done virtually. Surveys done with papers can be distributed electronically. Time-consuming detailed graphics are replaced with dynamic dashboards. Trends can be identified through social media sites and more.
The Evolution of Online Market Communities
Marketing research gradually started moving online in the early 2000s. The surveys that were conducted shifted from telephone to online.
In the 2000s there was also the emergence of email communities that used the format of question and answers and Voice of the customer tools that allowed the companies to communicate with their target customers. Today we have reached a step ahead in market research online.
The research conducted in 2019 GreenBook Research Industry Trends revealed that three-quarters of insight buyers are using online communities to conduct qualitative and quantitative research.
How to pick online research community tool and top customer insight panel
There are various online research community tools on the market. They are all not built similarly. It is necessary to choose the right tool to build customer insight and online communities. Some of the ways to select the right research tool are listed here:
- Easy to use and self-service to customers
If you want your customer to engage in your online research community often, you need to provide them a platform that will make it easy for them to do so. The community must be accessible to them 24/7 via any digital platform.
- Mobile capable
The majority of people own smartphones and use smartphones for various tasks. The task also includes participating in the community. Thus, if you want your customer participation in the online research community, make sure your community is available on mobile devices.
- Possible to segment participants of the community
Customer loyalty, satisfaction varies from one to another. Some customers are high-value, some customers may only purchase one time. It is essential to segment your customer based on their value. That will help you to choose the right participants for your community.
- Easy and quick access for internal teams
Your platform must be not only easily accessible to your participants but also to your internal team. Make sure your research staff and the internal team can have quick access to the platform. Your internal team should be able to have access on demand to the platform like your participants.
Benefits of Online Research Communities for Business
Unlike the traditional market research communities, members of the online research community need not be in a particular location to participate, can have access to participate in online research communities from anywhere in the world and at any time. They will require a computer or laptop, mobile device to log in and engage in a discussion according to their convenience.
In the past, companies needed to invest huge money in arranging complicated travel plans, securing a meeting spot, and catering food and all. Often companies are not able to conduct the research they want to due to budget constraints. Online research communities have eliminated all the costs that are involved in arranging the “event”. There is not an event.
Market research online communities only need commitment from the members to participate and provide information. Companies can gather more insights from participants as there are no barriers of time and location in online research communities, companies had to conduct multiple focus group sessions earlier. Now they can conduct just one online research community to provide the same amount of data.
Traditional focus groups are time intensive. They take time to organise, plan and conduct the market research. The companies frequently need to oversee more than one to obtain the required data to extract results. On the other hand, the online research community platform is established once it will be available 24/7. Companies can deliver instant feedback to questions and concerns addressed by members of market research online communities in real-time. The companies need to wait for the valuable data rather than continuously cultivate the same.
The online research community typically entails 50-150 participants. Whereas traditional focus groups include 6-10 individuals. In online research communities, there are more participants from whom moderators can gather the data by observing their interaction and recording their ideas and perception about the product or services or topic of interest. Put simply, an increase in the number of members results in more insight. And more insights result in a greater chance of meaningful outcomes.
Based on our experience in designing and building online research communities in the past year, we have come with some benefits that online research communities offer.
To Bring Ideas and People Together
There is no better ideal place than online research communities to collaborate with your customers. You can ask them questions related to products or services. You can also watch them interacting with each other sharing their ideas. By sharing their ideas and feedback on the product or service, they contribute to brand development. Sometimes it is true that the best ideas do not come from the marketing team or high-level executives, it comes from your customers who are using your products and services.
Create Brand Ambassadors
When you include your customers in the VIP online research community and engage with them regularly, you can share your brand information with them, which helps them stay engaged with your company. We all know it is necessary to have a positive response from the customers who value your brand. It will help your brand to earn goodwill.
The Ability to Understand Customers
The online research community offers you the chance to dig deeper and understand customer’s feelings, behaviour, motivations, and desires. With the help of an online research community, you can know what customers are feeling. The benefit is that you can ask them in more detail and go back to them to ask additional questions and get further information. The online research community is a valuable tool to handle sensitive information. It allows the members to share information privately without sharing it with the community members or across the internet and social media.
Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research in One Place
Online research communities enable you to use various qualitative and quantitative research tools under a single platform. It also includes quantitative surveys, online focus groups, discussion boards, journals, etc.
To Increase Your Business Reach
Engaging with your customer through online research communities can help your company build brand recognition and customer loyalty. Customer loyalty does not only come in the form of programs and points. Sometimes it can be in the form of sharing exclusive information with your customers. What can be a better way than building a great relationship with customers to increase your business reach?
There is a reason why online research is becoming popular. It provides access to high-quality qualitative data cost-effectively. It is also helping in the collaboration of community members to look into customer’s perceptions. It gives quick and easy insights in real-time from social media platforms.
If you use the above practices and choose the right online research community and survey software, you can get the insights that will help your business to be successful.