Let’s be frank — there have been moments over the past year when consumers have acted differently than we might have expected:
- Who would have thought that after the ship Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal, most people would… laugh?
- Who would have guessed that of all of the items that could have been caught up in the ensuing supply chain disruption, boba would be one to command headlines?
- Who would have thought meme stocks (like Gamestop and AMC) would send shock waves through financial markets and rally retail investors to “stick it to the man?”
The events of the past two years have changed consumer attitudes in both obvious and less obvious ways. These changes have forced us to question, and reposition, our ‘gut instinct’ for how consumers will respond to new information.
Online communities, and the ongoing research they allow, are uniquely positioned to help brands understand and connect with consumers quickly, deeply, and strategically. If you’ve been thinking about quicker, more effective ways to reach your consumers, here are a few reasons a community could be the right fit for you.
Reason #1: Online communities can help you right now
With a custom online community, you’ll have the ability to get up and running quickly. Once your key objectives are defined, your target audience is determined, and your community partner is selected, you can go from the idea of a community to a live community in only a couple of weeks.
Once your community is live, you can start talking to your consumers:
- Saw the news today about a competitor brand and want to get consumer thoughts? Tap into the community.
- Want to expand upon the knowledge you’re receiving from a tracker? Tap into the community.
- Have a product concept or marketing campaign you want a quick opinion on? Tap into the community.
- Just ran a segmentation and want to better understand each segment?… Well, you get the point. Communities can help!
One of our clients recently set up a community a few days before a board meeting. In that meeting, they were going to determine whether a product concept should be launched as a Limited Time Offering.
Unsure of whether the concept would resonate, how it would be interpreted, and if it would fit their brand, we jumped into action to get some answers. Within four days, we recruited consumers from the online community, fielded an activity, wrote a report, and presented the findings to leadership.
The product feedback was so helpful that instead of releasing as an LTO, the product has been greenlit for full product launch on the condition that changes will be made based on the consumer feedback.
Reason #2: Online communities are “always on”
Since communities are “always-on,” you see them in different moments, continuously growing your knowledge of who they are, what they believe, and how they act. This allows you to run more effective iterative work where consumers provide constructive feedback that builds over time.
You can be agile and run research at any point in the day and get responses when consumers are ready (or by a specified time that you desire).
Building consistent, meaningful relationships with consumers not only benefits your organization by allowing you to make more intuitive business decisions, but it also benefits your customers by understanding and delivering on exactly what they need.
Real Life Example
We ran a year-long study on a community for a beauty client where we checked in weekly with consumers to get thoughts on the products they use.
We were able to map out where they spend, when they spend, why they spend, and what motivates them to purchase different types of products. This longitudinal view allowed us to better understand the types of products desired throughout the year, what they were willing to “splurge” on, and what issues they were having with existing products on the market (white space innovation!)
Bonus Real Life Example
We brought clients and consumers together for a two-day innovation workshop aimed at creating new product ideas. At the end of the first day, we emerged with five product concepts.
That night, we launched a survey to our community members to provide feedback and build on the concepts so we could gut-check them before we launched into our second-day refinement process. The information we got from consumers helped us improve the concepts and better align them to the needs of the consumer as well as what they value in that brand.
Reason #3: Online communities let you get to know your customers — like, really get to know them
An online community takes away the “one-and-done” aspect of a lot of traditional research and allows for iterative approaches that build over time.
At the core, community research creates consumer closeness by facilitating comfort, collaboration, and active listening.
- Comfort – Online communities are a naturally safe space where members can open up and feel comfortable providing more natural, reflective, and honest responses without the fear of a “researcher” watching through the glass and judging.
- Collaboration – Two brains are better than one, right? Online communities encourage collaboration by giving consumers the ability to start their own conversations, comment on each other’s posts, brainstorm ideas together, and more. When consumers have a vested interest, they’re willing to collaborate and do more complex tasks in order to improve the brand they love (or hate!).
- Active listening – A properly set up community encourages organic dialogue from consumers. We pick things up from natural, member-initiated, conversations that we possibly wouldn’t have discovered from planned research activities. These conversations and learnings are often the source of breakthrough moments and white space opportunities.
Getting to know your consumers is a crucial component to making sure your business can adapt to all of the changes the world throws your way. The brands that are able to tap into consumer’s everchanging sentiments, from the good to the bad to the bizarre, will be better suited to pivot and tailor their offerings in the long run.