Market Research Online Communities (MROCs) exist to help brands stay continuously engaged with their customers. With the spontaneous, real-time insights from a targeted audience, companies can make smart product, marketing, and operational decisions. As 66% of customers say they expect companies to understand their needs, an online community is an excellent way to do just that. 

To form a market research online community, market researchers select participants, usually customers, based on predetermined criteria and demographics. Participants are then assembled into an online group, wherein researchers ask them to engage in a blend of qualitative and quantitative research. Although some participants join communities to better a brand they love, others join for the incentives, i.e., free products or money. Even with monetary and non-monetary rewards, MROCs can struggle to keep response and retention rates where they need them to be. Here’s how to drive the best results for your research community. 

Research Community Engagement 

Having a large pool of participants in your MROC is great; however, what’s the point if they are not engaging in the research activities? Driving research community engagement is just as important as recruiting new members. As communities mature, they can lose the attention of even the most eager participants. There are several reasons for this, and luckily, most can be remedied quickly. 

The problem: Research is repetitive or monotonous, and members are bored. 

The fix: Researchers must refresh content and incentives to keep members interested, activate community building/encourage members to communicate with each other, and delegate an engagement role to a community member.

The problem: There are too many or too few opportunities to participate, and members don’t think they need to participate or don’t see opportunities to do so. 

The fix: Researchers should deploy variety and creativity in research methods, assess the length of projects, vary topics, switch up formats, and allow member-generated topics.

The problem: Research activities are challenging to understand, and members are confused. 

The fix: Researchers must ensure all research activities are simple to participate in and to understand. Researchers should avoid the use of jargon, double-barrelled questions (i.e., asking two questions in one), and acronyms in their surveys. Keep questions simple and to the point for the best results. 

The problem: Poor technology user experience (UX). Participating is too difficult, time-consuming, or just not convenient. 

The fix: Invest in MROC technology that makes it easy to participate. Mobile surveys are the perfect example because participants can engage while they are on the go. 

Pro tip: FC Live, an Ignition solution, enables real-time, virtual focus groups and in-depth interviews for fast-moving market research teams. FC Live interviews can be conducted across the globe with high usability and low latency.

The problem: Members don’t feel valued and feel they are just worker bees. 

The fix: Researchers must create an onboarding experience to allow members to get to know other community members, moderators, processes, and expectations, recruit continuously to maintain a vibrant space, and nurture a sense of community.

Research Community Retention 

In addition to MROC member engagement, it’s critical to maintain high member retention. Keeping members overtime is the result of a healthy research community. Here’s how to keep participants on board.

1. Regularly Assess Your Member Experience 

As online communities age, they can grow stale. Members and moderators can lose their enthusiasm for the project, resulting in fewer insights and return on investment. To avoid this fate, researchers should regularly assess MROC members’ experiences. To fully realize an MROCs potential, researchers must intentionally improve their community experience by collecting feedback about member experience, ways to improve, and what kinds of research activities they most enjoy. 

2.  Take Action On Customer Feedback

Once you’ve listened to your customers and understand their needs, you must take action fast. Closing the feedback loop as it happens is vital if you want your research community to be effective and if you want members to understand their importance. Showing MROC members how the brand used their opinions to promote real change is a great way to boost retention. Beyond monetary incentives, participants want to know that their voice is being heard. By taking action on customer feedback, you prove to them that their efforts matter and cement the kind of brand-to-customer relationship required for retention. 

3. Maintain An Active Moderator Presence 

MROC moderators or community managers are the foundation of the community. Moderators act as the coordinator, funneling participants toward research activities. However, participants can start to jump ship if a moderator seems missing-in-action (MIA) for long periods of time. After all, if the moderator isn’t invested, why should they be? A moderator must engage with the platform frequently by asking questions, reviewing comments, and assessing community health. 

It’s no surprise that many companies are turning to market research online communities considering the robust benefits, including:

  • Real-time access to rich qualitative and quantitative customer data
  • The ongoing collaboration of community members for a deep look into customer opinion
  • Quick and easy insights from engagement on social media platforms
  • A cost-effective way to bring customer insights into one platform

Bottom Line

Launching a market research community takes time, money, blood, sweat, and some tears. From selecting a platform, identifying research goals, recruiting members, and getting stakeholder support, creating a thriving online community doesn’t happen overnight. Even with all the hard labor, though, MROCs can fizzle out over time. However, with the proper engagement and retention strategies, brands can maintain a bustling community for years to come. 

Want to know more about keeping your MROC in tip-top shape? Check out our webinar, Reinvigorating Your Research Community (psst: It’s as essential as launching one) to learn about the primary symptoms of a research community at risk and the key drivers that you can proactively address, four primary areas of action that you can take to get your research community back on course and better than ever, and how to educate, inspire, and leverage internal stakeholders to play their crucial role in community health.