Six Steps To Successful Online Research Communities

Online research communities, custom panels and virtual interviews have the potential to unlock deeper, more meaningful consumer insight – and have never been more top-of-mind. But there are many pitfalls when using online research platforms.

Here’s how to guarantee success.

Online research communities are remote, real-time and, especially now, more relevant than ever. Your consumer research can go deep with online panels, ethnographies and online individual interviews, reaching across the country and around the globe to interact with consumers in their own homes and communities – no travel required.

But for guaranteed success with online research, you can’t short change the approach. At FK LiveLabs, we use six key steps to build quality into the design of our online research – ensuring high quality results that are brimming with strategic insight.

1. Align on a strategic research brief – Be clear on why a community is uniquely suited to fulfill your objectives. What questions need to be answered?  Whether it’s in service of Brand Strategy, Innovation Strategy or core consumer needs understanding, identifying – and specifying – exactly what needs to be learned is the imperative first step.  Linking this learning objective to the business success factors or marketing metrics is also key.

2. Keep it focused – As strategists and curators of insight, we always want to know more.  Having an online insights community of respondents makes it very tempting to go beyond the initial scope of research.  We find this comes at the expense of depth on the learning we need.  To maintain respondents’ engagement, keep them focused, and get in and out of your community research quickly.  Even longer term studies should be tightly defined.

3. Never shortchange the recruit – Recruiting for online communities is as important as any other research, maybe even more so. The quality of the respondents can make or break the study. A quality online recruit means no cutting corners, no settling for topline demos and behaviors in screening. Seek specific strategic brand targets, prime prospects, consumer segments, or unique psychographic mindsets. Our FK LiveLabs work with carefully recruited iconic consumers in online communities continues to unlock new ideas and provide rich forward-looking insights.

4. Keep it personal – People are more willing to share when they know they are talking to a real person (not a robot!). Using provocative questions, rich creative stimulus and engaging probes, we are able to get beyond what respondents say and think to what they feel and why. Create an online discussion guide and creative research stimulus specifically tailored for online moderating. Stay nimble – follow through on interesting kernels and unexpected leads that can shed meaningful light on the questions at hand.

5. Tap into Design Thinking – FK LiveLabs communities are often set up to address one or more of the challenges associated with the five phases of Design Thinking – empathize, design, innovate, prototype, test.  We use a rapid consumer collaboration process to disrupt predictable thinking patterns, fuel ideas and accelerate learning.  This approach provides a systematic, yet human- centered way to learn, create and innovate.

6. Explore consumers’ full context – Fully leverage the opportunity to understand consumers’ lifestyle context and their digital context. Seeking to understand the digital ecosystem and potential digital media targets can help provide valuable insight on the full scope of customer experience.

At FK LiveLabs we help our clients engage with consumers, professionals, influencers and experts through online research communities, online focus group research, in-depth one-on-one interviews and mobile ethnography research.

FK LiveLabs is a division of Fletcher Knight, Inc.

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