market research online community

What is a Market Research Online Community (MROC)?

Market Research Online Community (MROC) is a relatively comprehensive technique of gathering real-time qualitative market research insights. This technique consists of a typical closed group of community members, that participate in a structured discussion around a given topic.

In the worlds of marketing and market research, anthropology, sociology, and social research, “online community” and “panels” mean different things and have changed in definition over the years. If you look up “market research online community” on a web search, you are likely to find yourself looking at a list of ideas and options for joining forums, such as the Apple Support Community.

These are generally online gathering places where participants can ask questions and get answers either from each other or from online moderators who are experts. That is not an online research community we would like to talk about today.

“Panels,” on the other hand, at least in the world of market research, defines a group of paid respondents. Often, a panel is used by a market research company with a specific set of demographics to gather information via surveys. For example, QuestionPro clients can purchase panel with defined demographics to answer their surveys. This comes in handy when, for example, you have a questionnaire about the perception of pharmaceutical sales that you want only general practice physicians to answer.

Combining the two, though, gets you a group of participants that you either recruit directly or indirectly via marketing promotions who become your own private panel, but also can participate in online forum-type discussions that you moderate.

For example, a large retail chain would use an online research community or research panel to field surveys about possible store signage changes and would use the same panel to allow participants to discuss issues and participate in moderated online focus group discussions. The participants might be rewarded with points for their participation, and the points could be redeemed for rewards such as gift cards or movie tickets because here is an insight community tip -people respond to incentives.

How does a Market Research Online Community (MROC) Work?

Market research online communities are custom designed for research purposes and the inspiration is taken from social media networking websites and similar portals. The community is centered upon certain discussions based on a series of topics related to market research. Research is extremely important for any business to develop its strategies and game plans.  

Without an exhaustive market research, companies or businesses will not be able to understand what exactly is going on in the mind of the customers. Market research is especially important when a business decides to launch a new product or make some changes to the existing product. It will need customers to identify if they are happy or not about the new product or the changes in the existing product.

A business will need its customers to answer questions that are systematically curated to read their mind, well it’s no fantasy, it has to be in reality that the feedback should be collected and for those members will be needed who would be willing to review the product and respond to the survey, interview, polls etc. so, the business knows if the product will be accepted or not in that market.

MROC however, is different from other online focus group discussions. Here is how MROC works:

1. The market research online community are conducted over a longer period of time usually measured in months or even years instead of just days and weeks. The discussions can go on for a longer duration depending on the community topic.

2. The market research online community allows respondents to contribute their content on the community topic in the form of blog entries, video recordings, and other multimedia platforms. As a matter of fact, community members are actively encouraged to interact with other participants by submitting their comments, custom profile sharing, and similar conversational methods.

3. MROC is well suited to gather quick insights from the market at relatively short notice. This approach proves beneficial to clients, especially when they are fast-moving and from technical industry sectors for any research initiative where rapid prototyping and immediate feedback is needed.

4. Market research online community help gathers in-depth insights as compared to other short-term qualitative research methods. Since the discussions and communication between the community members tend to take place over an extended period of time, community members can be gradually guided through complex topics and these topics can be broken down into smaller sections that can help the discussion progress systematically.

Important Factors to Consider For Market Research Online Community

1. The best market research online communities tend to have a modest number of members. As per the market standards, an experienced community should have a range between 25-75 highly engaged members at one point in time, who is an expert in the subject matter. This number works extremely well as compared to a larger community where there might be a possibility of diluted discussions.

2. Community members should be rewarded for investing time and sharing their knowledge while being a part of the discussions. Rewarding them with high monetary benefits doesn’t always achieve desired results. Gift cards, coffee coupons, amazon vouchers are popular among community members.

3. Community members need to have absolute clarity on the topics of discussions. Expectations about what is going to be discussed in a controlled environment must be managed. In some community discussions, participants are reluctant to discuss certain sensitive topics, that they might think would hurt the beliefs or sentiments of the other members.

4. Re-recruiting and appointing new community members is necessary and required at the same time. In market research online community, some businesses cannot commit fully to a long-term research exercise. In such cases periodic replacement of the community members is essential.

5. An excellent market research online community should be based on two factors:

  • Good listeners
  • Good orators.

 Business respondents need to know and feel that MROC is different from other qualitative research methods. This often leads to newer avenues and also discussions that they might not have previously considered.

Advantages of Market Research Online Community

In no particular order, here are five advantages of a market research online community or research panel of your own. Note that these benefits apply regardless of the size of your organization.

  • Participants who feel invested in your organization. Whether recruited directly or indirectly, those who sign up to be a part of your online research community or research panel actively had to sign up to join. That means they’re already showing they are interested in being active on the panel.
  • Your own group of survey respondents. Consider your market research online community or research panel as your own group of survey respondents you can turn to anytime.
  • Shortened total time spent on market research. Because you have a group of respondents ready to answer at any given time, getting a survey launched to this group takes less time than our already-quick purchased panel. Basically, once you are ready to go with the survey, you can send the email invitation to your community participants, and they are ready to start responding.
  • Decreased market research budget. By having your own online research community or research panel, and by decreasing the time to field and gather responses, you also decrease the amount of budget spent on market research. That budget can then be allocated to putting the information you gather from your online research community or research panel to use in marketing strategies and organizational strategy development.
  • More engaged audience. Because you have your own panel of respondents to work with, you also can have shorter surveys more often. The audience is there, willing to participate, and you get to decide how to reward them for their participation. Due to this feedback loop, you encourage higher levels of engagement.

Disadvantages of Market Research Online Community

  • The market research online community is often directed by an administrator, they choose the community members, questions, and even media sharing. There is a fair chance of bias that can be detrimental to the final results of the group.
  • There is a certain degree of recruiting and re-recruiting that is involved that can disrupt the dynamics of the community. Longtime commitments are not the best medium for quick surveys.

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