The first online communities appeared in the market research landscape as early as the late 2000s, but the great added value that these technology platforms offer was not recognized or even questioned for a long time. There were - and there is no doubt - “proven methods” and also the factor that For example, being able to look "straight in the eyes" through observation mirrors in the test studio were initially the dominant arguments against using an online community.
Ultimately, the success of online communities could not be stopped - certainly reinforced by the changed way of working and communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, the online community is one of the most widespread methods for gaining real “real-life” customer insights for market research, marketing and Customer Experience Management, but also for the development and optimization of algorithms. Such customer insights enable companies to fully understand their customers and non-customers
As a company, you can not only use customer centricity as a buzzword, but actually sharpen customer understanding among all employees, incorporate it into all processes and levels in the company and turn customers into advocates of the company, the brand (s) and the products. But why is that so? - Read below the top benefits that an online community offers you and why they are also factors in your company's success.
Presentation by Dan Balica and Kevin Stine on the subject of beta testing via the online community
“Real World Evidence Data” - regardless of time and place
Immerse yourself in the real life of your community members and gain profound insights in the “moment of truth” for all your customers. Members of an online community can, for example, have "live" discussions with you via the community app in the supermarket while they are shopping. Videos can be recorded at home while a product is in use. Mobile diaries enable you to better understand the daily routine and different emotions, and even “classic” surveys can be answered precisely in the situation in which the participants are currently and have time. Nobody has to be invited to a fixed location for a specific date, so that a broad composition of the participants in your online community according to region, age, family situation, occupation, etc. can easily be achieved.
The aim of marketing is to understand the customer and his needs so well that products fit exactly and therefore sell themselves.
Peter F. Drucker
The requirements in the company are becoming more and more agile and dynamic. An online community helps you optimally to meet these requirements in gaining insight. Due to the existing portfolio of all market research methods and a wide range of participants, you can be flexibly adapted at any time and deliver quick results, e.g. T. in real time. In addition, with the right online community management, you are continuously integrated into the customers' worlds. This supports you in asking better, more targeted questions and identifying the right topics, as well as being able to answer many internal company requirements per se. This basis enables you to make quick, well-founded, data-based and, above all, realistic decisions. The customer, his needs and habits are, so to speak, always sitting right at the decision-making table in your company.
In addition, processes within a high-tech online community can be fully automated and flexibly designed. You can react flexibly to new challenges or changing circumstances at any time. In addition, they create the highest level of agility by using third-party systems such as B. CRM, or external panels can be connected to an online community ..
→ More information on agile market research
Diversity of methods
Thanks to modern platform technology and highly developed mobile devices, an online community no longer has to make a decision between qualitative and quantitative approaches - both can easily be combined or qualitative constructs can also be quantified, e.g. B. by means of reaction time or emotion measurements. Topics can be discussed, the analysis of which by means of semantic analysis enables key words to be extracted, which are then presented to the customer for approval in “Quick Polls”. The participants can continue to discuss these results independently or in a moderated manner. Complex ways of life, contexts of justification can be explored qualitatively, supported by z. B. Mobile diaries, observation via the smartphone camera, etc. Unique hypotheses can be formed from these insights, which can be directly validated, objectified and ( can be analysed partially) automatically.
Diversity of participants
(external / internal, open, closed)
The areas of application of an online community are also unlimited with regard to the group of participants: You can operate a market research community, customer community, sales, employee, innovation, B2B, B2C or partner community. Or think of a support community where members help each other, give valuable tips and report bugs. Or an executive community in which executives understand and discuss the strategic direction of the company and exchange ideas across departments - thereby reducing silo thinking.
You can also define whether you run an open or closed community, i.e. whether everyone can register or you can determine who has access to the community.
Nobel laureate and psychologist Daniel Kahnemann established the distinction between human thinking in two systems: fast, automatic and intuitive thinking (system 1) and the slower, analytical mode of our brain (system 2). Online community platforms give you the opportunity to address and research both systems in parallel and to use them to answer your questions. For example, you can use AI-based text analysis to determine affective states, emotions, tonality, interest, self-communication aspects and personality traits from forum posts or chats. Response time measurements, IAT and A / B tests, which tend to address “quick thinking”, can also be carried out easily. At the same time, you can use system 2 for market research purposes with classic methods in order to ultimately ensure a holistic, optimal approach and to understand the customers comprehensively.
Gain qualitative and quantitative insights with an online community for market research and experience management.
An outstanding online community offers engagement tools such as incentives or gamification. Incentivization means that particularly committed community members are rewarded, for example with gift cards or other benefits that are perceived as rewards. This includes, for example, special customer events, participation in ideas competitions, and receiving product samples. Gamification means that particularly active members receive awards that are made public, depending on their level of activity. A committed community generates significantly more insights.
→ More information about customer engagement
The use of an online community enables very deep insights into the purchasing and decision-making process of your customers. This will help you develop a model that will increase your customers' loyalty to your brands and products. For example, after the introduction of an online community, the battery manufacturer Energizer managed to significantly increase the number of repeat purchases in a crowded market.
The role of marketeers is to guide customers throughout their journey from awarness and ultimately to advocacy
Continuous feedback and dialogue
An online community is the best breeding ground for continuously gaining customer and non-customer feedback. Members of the community are in a constant exchange, which can be moderated or rather ethnographically unmoderated. A professional online community offers members all the communication channels they know from their lives: writing, photos or videos and other members can interact with these contributions. You can easily evaluate and use all of this communication with the help of intelligent text, image and video analysis tools according to your objectives.
Own online panel
If, while recruiting members for your online community, you make sure that they provide information on sociodemographic data as well as personality traits, attitudes and motives, then you can use a filter to select random samples and thus select participants for surveys and studies. The community participants become a real online panel. You then no longer have to engage external service providers to commission studies and you can act yourself if you need quick results. However, external panels can also be linked to a technologically mature online community.
Short term, medium term or long term operation
A short-term online community is suitable for answering specific questions or for solving short-term problems. The participants or experts are invited for a short period of a few days or a few weeks and help you to develop a better understanding or to find solutions. Long-term communities are operated, for example, to generate in-depth insights and are usually created without an end date. They offer you the advantage of being able to build up and maintain a relationship with the members, and the members also maintain relationships with one another, discuss them, support one another and provide valuable impulses on a wide variety of topics. That creates a wealth of data! Medium-term communities are in between and the participants are usually also communicated an end time of the community. They are primarily suitable for developing or researching topics that are to be investigated over a longer but finite period of time.
In general, the longer the duration of an online community, the better you can use it to identify trends and changes.
“Real” customer centricity
Involve your customers in the development and improvement of your products and services right from the start and use the methods of Design Thinking or Scrum Sprints. Let the thoughts and emotions of your customers flow continuously into product development with targeted surveys, product tests and concept tests. Use the power of community and committed customers to drive ideas, use collective intelligence and create outstanding products and innovations. The online community of QuestionPro.
→ More information on the topic of customer community
One example of this is NASA, which relies on the use of an online community when it comes to developing innovations. The more people jointly generate, develop and drive ideas, the higher the probability that they will turn into real innovations. Communities have so-called idea boards in which one can write ideas according to a given structure, which other community members then evaluate. to be able to comment and develop further.
Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.
Not every online community available on the market is technologically mature in such a way that it can meet almost all requirements of companies, market researchers, customer experience and community managers. There is either a lack of possibilities to connect external tools, systems or panels. Or there is a lack of valuable features, such as tools for idea management or the option of sending surveys to a small-scale selection of community members. In addition, it is not uncommon for online community technologies not to offer a native mobile app that allows you to send notifications, upload videos or collect data for geolocation. Therefore, before introducing an online community, it is important to find out what possibilities a community technology offers so that you don't have to limit your own actions and can do unlimited research!