Market research online communities — or MROCs for short — are the next generation of online focus groups. The idea is to bring together market research participants on a shared, centralized web-based platform so they can perform various tasks and exercises, as well as engage in both structured and organic discussions; including participant-to-participant dialogue. Since market research online communities depend so much on organic, iterative and spontaneous contributions, they tend to last for months or even years, compared to online focus groups that typically last for days or, at most, weeks.
Market Research Online Communities: Key Benefits
There are several benefits of using market research online communities, including the ability to identify:
- How your products and services should be developed and designed, in order to generate maximum customer adoption and marketplace penetration.
- How your brand is perceived relative to the competition, and what messages resonate the most with your target audiences and various buyer personas.
- What content you should be creating to increase mindshare, and deepen your customer base.
- What touchpoints and channels you should be using to push out your messages and reach current and future customers (e.g. web, social, mobile, broadcast, offline, event, etc.).
- How impending or anticipated regulatory or legislative changes in the marketplace or industry will impact customer perceptions, frameworks, decision-making criterion, and so on.
Market Research Online Communities: Best Practices
According to Communications for Research, a full-service market research firm that runs hundreds of projects a year including (for more information check out www.cfrinc.net), the keys to successful market research online communities is implementing a set of best practices that include:
- Heavily emphasizing the community aspect by empowering participants to make organic contributions (i.e. not consistently responding to a moderator’s questions, which is more typical of a structured focus group).
- Using exercises and other tactics to generate deep insights on a variety of issues vs. targeted feedback about a limited set of factors.
- Having enough participants to withstand the inevitable attrition that occurs since market research online communities last for months or years. Generally, it’s wise to aim for around 75 participants and have a roster of people ready to be invited as required.
- Making a concerted and consistent effort to get participants personally invested in the process. By taking ownership, they are more likely to spend more time in the community and offer a more meaningful, thoughtful contribution.
A Final Word
While market research online communities are innovative and dynamic, they are not necessarily better or worse than other qualitative data gathering methods, including online focus groups. In most cases, a market research online community is one piece of an overall plan that includes other approaches, which ultimately work together to deliver the business intelligence you need to make smart and profitable decisions.