5 great uses for online communities

Ahead of our Online Communities Breakfast Seminar on 29th April, we take a look at 5 great uses for online communities – from bringing segments to life and reaching consumers globally to iterative concept development, understanding how consumers behave and gaining insight into the path to purchase.

Bringing segments to life

Following large segmentation pieces, internal teams often struggle to move beyond the two dimensional segments described and get a real sense of the consumers they represent. One way of overcoming this is to run an online community with consumers to help bring the various segments to life. By accessing the community and viewing life logs, video interviews and other materials uploaded by respondents, employees are able to build up a vivid picture of their customers, helping to embed the segmentation internally.

Reaching consumers globally

Online communities are a cost-effective means of conducting research globally. By bringing consumers together in online spaces, insight professionals are able to avoid the high costs and logistical difficulties associated with running focus groups or conducting depth interviews in other countries. What’s more, the integration of mobile into online communities has provided a new opportunity for researchers to see how respondents behave outside an artificial research environment, thereby providing deeper insights into the cultural differences between consumers.

Iterative concept development

Consumer input to creative concept development has traditionally come at a late stage in the process, by which point, their feedback only exists to validate a final idea, rather than influence its direction. Online communities facilitate a new, iterative approach to concept development that involves consumers at a much earlier stage in the process. Through online communities, brands are able to test initial concepts (be that comms, product or packaging ideas) with consumers and then refine them based on the feedback received. These revised concepts can then be presented back into the community for further feedback and iteratively developed up until launch. By using communities in this way brands are able to maximise their chances of a successful launch.

Understanding how consumers behave

Online communities are great tools for gaining an insight into how consumers behave, allowing researchers to explore everything from respondents’ lifestyles to their relationships with specific brands. Recently, mobile has opened up a whole new set of possibilities for understanding consumer behaviour. By integrating ‘mobile missions’ into the community, such as taking images or recording videos, it’s possible to observe how consumers react to and use products first-hand.

Gaining insight into the path to purchase

A further use for online communities is as a hub for tracking the path to purchase. Integration of mobile and online methodologies has enabled us to move away from retrospective storytelling and instead allowed us to start capturing in-the-moment actions and reactions. This gives us the ability to build a much more accurate and detailed view of the purchase journey, including the emotional ups and downs, the complex triggers involved and the key influences.

To find out more about online communities and the benefits and challenges of using them as part of your research programme, sign up for our complimentary breakfast seminar on Tuesday 29th April here.