I have a confession to make…
I have a favorite. Favorite research method, that is…
Market Research Online Communities (MROCs)!
You see, I spent some of my formative market research years at one of the industry leaders in MROCs and I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of online communities to gather deep insight and perform some really interesting longitudinal studies.
Are there things communities are not good for? Sure! For example, they’re not the place for large quant studies (obviously), and they’re not the place for a final go/no go on a product launch (where you’ll want big numbers to back you up). But they are fantastic for research like longitudinal studies as they allow for iteration, for getting to the language and emotions around a product or service, and many other uses. Not only having that researcher-to-respondent interaction, but being able to have a view into the member-to-member interaction in a community can be research gold.
One of my favorite uses of a MROC is digging deep into a topic that is difficult to discuss in a traditional researcher to respondent format. What’s a difficult topic? Death, disease, bullying, family issues, and products that deal with those markets (think hospice care, etc.). Sometimes a quant survey can’t get you what you need and a community can give you rich insight through hearing how members talk to each other and discuss these difficult issues, and through creative formats in the community software such as photo galleries. I won’t name names, but a former client who worked in an industry dealing with some of those difficult issues was able to really get to the language and emotions around those topics which led them to more nuanced and polished marketing and advertising.
When I started in MROCs, it was the Wild West out there with only a few players in the marketplace…
Now other powerful and productive players are in the space (Ypulse, C+R Research, and 360 Market Reach to name a few). Some offer short-term communities for a single project, others have communities that have been up and running for 3+ years. It's also no longer such a hurdle to convince clients that utilizing a community for research can yield some great insights
MROCs definitely have a presence at #TMRE13 this year, from presentations that focus on utilizing communities such as “Exploring Brand Affinity Across Hispanic & Gen Pop Generations: Stretching Online Panels and Communities” to talks where the research came out of a community such as “A Fresh Perspective on the Aging Consumer.” Sponsors and exhibitors in the community space will also be there.
Have you used MROCs for your research?
How do you feel MROCs are changing from the early days?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!