You already know what a Market Research Online Community (MROC) is, and that this internet-based method for doing market research has become very popular with researchers looking for an easier and more cost-effective way of drawing out consumer opinions. But do market research online communities actually have something to offer that traditional in-person focus groups don’t? What special benefits can researchers derive from an MROC?
In other words, WHY conduct a market research online community?
The Advantages of Market Research Online Communities
Even if you don’t want to completely replace your tried-and-true methods with a market research online community, MROCs can at the very least be complementary to traditional methods, as they provide several distinct advantages when it comes to gaining market insight.
As mentioned, an MROC can be a more cost-effective alternative and easier to run. It can also allow you to draw from a much larger sample size – and that doesn’t mean that quality has to be sacrificed for quantity either. A market research online community can last as long as you want it to, providing ample opportunity to observe and have meaningful interaction with every participant in the community.
Anyone who has conducted a focus group knows that some participants may be less forthcoming than others, whether due to shyness or fear of saying something offensive. In an online setting, participants are more likely to feel at ease, providing a free-flowing discussion with honest, unfiltered feedback that will allow researchers to gather more useful insights.
Because market research online communities can be conducted over an indefinite period of time, the discussion can be more organic, with community members responding naturally when they actually have something to say – rather than forcing a response in a time-limited setting. Researchers can actually track an MROC participant’s developing relationship with a product. As the research can span multiple days and multiple times within that day, you can track specific external type processes as they happen and get much richer in the moment insight.
Even though an MROC is conducted online, whereas a focus group is in person, the internet is now the place where people interact with one another through social media, order products via their favourite websites, and offer opinions on review sites - allowing an MROC to provide a more “real” setting in which to gather consumer responses.
Using the Tools of the Online World
Discussion platforms, online polls, and social media are among the internet-based tools that MROC moderators can use to facilitate interaction and information-sharing amongst their online market research community. These are all ways that individuals often choose to communicate with one another about topics of their own interest, so it isn’t a stretch for them to use these tools in the context of a market research group.
Market research online communities can also make use of the basic photo and video technology that people utilize regularly on their phones and tablets. In order to get live feedback from something like a diary task (an assisted shopping task, for example), moderators and community managers can ask participants to make videos or post photos as they carry out the task. This is the next best thing to actually being right by a participant’s side to gauge their consumer habits in everyday life, and potentially better as there is no observer influence.
Speaking the Language of Millennials
Market insight specialists are always in search of ways to understand the buying habits and desires of young consumers. Today, that means tapping into the minds of Millennials. Millennials, many of whom may not even know what a focus group is, grew up on the internet, so a market research online community is the most obvious way to reach out to this demographic. With online discussions and photo/video capture being the tools for response, MROCs speak the language of the Millennial generation.
Given that Millennials are steeped in the sharing culture of social media, some may even embrace the opportunity to take part in an MROC so that their voices can be heard and so that they might be viewed as thought leaders. The online community can also allow participating young people to communicate with one another extensively. These organic interactions are likely to reveal unique insights that come only from peer-to-peer dialogue, as opposed to a Q&A with a moderator.
More Than a Trend
We are far beyond the days when online communication could be dismissed as a passing fancy. People now live much of their lives online, so it is only logical that market research meets them there. While traditional focus groups still offer the irreplaceable experience of in-person human interaction, it is plain to see that market research online communities provide a host of special advantages that make them a vital tool for conducting market research in the 21st century.
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