Online insight communities have so much to offer. From employing in-depth qualitative research methods to providing substantial quantitative findings; if there’s a question you need to be answered, an online community can be your tool to do it!
Market Research Online Communities (MROCs)
Let’s start with the basics! The first thing to note when talking about the benefits of different activities and research methods within an online community is that you never have to worry about procuring a sample. Online communities have registered members who have opted into research activities and are ready to provide insights and feedback at a moment’s notice.
Have an urgent question you need feedback on immediately? You have a group of people ready and willing to give you their feedback, so you don’t have to worry about wasting any of that already crunched time finding people that fit the criteria you’re looking for. Another thing to take into account is that full service insight communities come ready with an account team, to help field and analyze research topics and act as a partner to ensure your objectives are met.
Qualitative Research Methods
Looking to have a conversation with your consumers? Need to get at those more emotional findings and moments? Well, there’s a wide range of qualitative research methods at your disposal in your online community.
Probably the simplest of the qualitative research methods an insight community can provide, discussions are not to be underrated! Discussions are great for gaining qualitative customer insights when posing one simple question to consumers. This type of activity within a community:
- Allows for moderation/follow-up questions to individual members or the group
- Encourages group discussion between members, which can provide valuable insights into the customer experience
- Provides a good starting point for ongoing research objectives
Overall, a discussion is good as a starting point to get internal research objectives started or for answering a simple research question that’s vital to moving forward with a product or service. We use these constantly with our clients, most recently to help a CPG client begin a larger initiative to understand the emotions evoked during key moments with their products.
Journals and Ethnographies
This qualitative method is useful when you’re looking for a little more than a discussion. A nice middle-ground between a discussion and the more in-depth research of IDIs (in-depth interviews), journals offer a variety of qualitative research benefits:
- Allows for several qualitative research questions (typically up to four) to be posed to members
- Allows for moderation/follow-up questions to individual members
- Can be “masked” so that members see only their own responses, providing members privacy to answer more personal questions honestly
Journals can be used for a variety of different reasons. Maybe you want to test a couple of different ad options? Or maybe you’re redesigning materials/packaging and want consumer feedback on the messaging. Journals allow for a more robust response about likes and dislikes as well as any other more in-depth research questions you might have.
In our own experience, journals helped one of our utility clients redesign their customer newsletter. By understanding customer preferences, the company was able to come to a decision on a new format and color scheme, all through the use of this methodology.
In-depth Interviews (IDIs) and Online Focus Groups
In-depth interviews are for longer, larger initiatives. Typically aimed at a small, specific group of individuals within the online community, IDIs allow for a close ongoing dialog between a consumer and a moderator.
- Typically aimed at no more than 30 individuals per group
- Allows for one-on-one moderator follow-ups/discussion
- Usually, around 7+ questions presented in a “journal” format
- Can be “masked” to provide privacy/allow for individuals not to be influenced by other responses
IDIs have helped our own clients understand their customers and the customer experience on a deeper, more meaningful level. An insurance client wanted to understand the user experience when initially signing up for one of their benefits. Because of the in-depth research of the IDIs, they were able to determine customer interest in the product, how easy the assessment was to complete, and how likely these consumers would be to purchase this type of benefit.
Photo and Video Diaries
Looking for images or customer testimonials? This is the research for you! Sometimes, understanding involves seeing something tangible or listening directly to what someone has to say.
- Allows for visual/audio findings
- A good way to incorporate context and color into other research
Ideation and Customer Co-Creation (CrowdWeaving)
Now, here’s the big one for qualitative research. Customer co-creation. Here at KLC, we believe that everyone is creative and that includes your customers! Design thinking doesn’t have to be limited to your creative team, and Ideation and CrowdWeaving (KLC’s proprietary Customer Co-Creation methodology) activities are the best way to get your customers involved early and start an innovative partnership – ensuring you’ll be putting a product or service out there that wholly meets your customers’ needs.
- A proactive research method that allows you to incorporate your customers into the design/concept process early and take your concept testing to a higher level
- Rules can be set so that customers understand the limitations of designs/concepts
- Allows for ranking/rating to better understand which concepts customers prefer over others
CrowdWeaving was pivotal to helping another one of our energy providers create a new program to prove they are a trusted energy provider. You can check out more about how the process worked and helped them by looking at the case study.
The benefits of co-creation through ideation and CrowdWeaving are immeasurable when time allows!
Sometimes it’s all about numbers and statistics, and that’s when quantitative research comes into play. Once again, the benefits of the community hold true: you will always have a sample of people ready and willing to complete your research, and the community ensures you’ll have the numbers on your side for quantitative findings as well, with the option to reach out to non-community members when necessary.
Perhaps the most basic of the “quantitative” methods, polls are great for getting a quick read on what consumers think about one simple close-ended question.
- Good for backing up and adding context to qualitative research methods
- Allows you to track changes across one question over a period of time (i.e. asking the same question monthly to see if consumer habits change/stay the same)
While polls are great to support qualitative findings and provide some numbers to round out the “whys”, it is not typically a methodology to rely on for strict quantitative research, as they are more directional in nature.
Surveys can range from simple to complex but allow you to understand what your customers are thinking/need on a larger scale.
- Allows for participation from a larger sample as well as people from outside of the community
- Ability to ask several closed and open-ended questions
- Ability to randomize and allow for easier A/B testing
Online research communities offer an abundance of different research methodologies and are not limited to the ones mentioned above. The idea of having a community at your disposal is that there’s also a team behind it, ready and willing to work with you and your team to figure out how to answer your research objectives. And more importantly, there’s an always available group of advisors available to you, ready to provide feedback and insights on-demand… even if that means being innovative in our research methods themselves!