When Information is Hard to Get: Creating Positive Feedback Loops through Engagement in Online Research Communities
Editor’s Note: The MROC (Market Research Online Community) has quickly emerged as not just a major method for insight generation, but as a central hub for achieving a variety of brand objectives. It’s that flexibility that is largely driving uptake of the community idea, particularly when suppliers that can focus on the marketing and engagement aspects of client needs are involved. Companies like Communispace, Vision Critical, and today’s contributor, InSites Consulting, are ushering in this new holistic era where researchers look and think more like marketing organizations, while acting like researchers. The examples that that the InSites team provide below are impressive not just for the business impact the learnings provided, but also for the look, feel, and experience they incorporated to extend the brand. It’s a very similar argument to that used by adherents of gamification and mobile approaches (like me).
Is the community approach as used by these firms appropriate for all types of research and business objectives? Absolutely not. Is it an effective mode when applied in the right business objective context? Absolutely yes. Hats off to the pioneers of using the MROC for pushing the boundaries of what research can be like, and kudos to the InSites team for sharing some very cool examples of how to look and think like marketing executives while acting like researchers.
Dr. Niels Schillewaert – Managing Partner USA InSites Consulting – primary contact
Tom De Ruyck – Head of Research Communities InSites Consulting
Thomas Troch – Senior Research Innovator InSites Consulting
Jonne van Wijngaarden – Margin Controller & Controller New Business Development, Philips Healthcare
Information is often difficult to elicit in market research. This can be e.g. due to hard to reach target groups and / or the fact that consumers cannot or are not willing to answer certain questions. These situations even create some kind of “double jeopardy”. We deal with hard to reach and small groups but it consequently also requires doing things right from the first time once we get the target group’s commitment.
Online research communities are a good method in such instances for a number of obvious reasons: they are asynchronous by nature and permit participants to engage at those moments that suit them best, the multi-media capabilities allow rich content and interaction, the open sharing of information creates a sense of belonging … but there is a need for more. That need for more can come from a form of method engagement that creates reinforcing positive feedback loops of information. Such positive feedback loops between participants in an online research community are usually realized by doing something to people rather than asking them questions. In this blog we illustrate two cases in circumstances where getting the information was hard and we created positive feedback loops in creative ways.
Heineken – The Concept Club Community: Inspiring Designers with Consumer Insights
Last summer, Heineken kicked-off a global design project. ‘Open Design Explorations Edition 1: The Club’ invited the most talented emerging designers from around the world to become part of an interdisciplinary team. Heineken co-created an exciting and unique nightlife experience, resulting in a live concept club space unveiled during Milan’s Design Week in April 2012. Young talented designers from 4 design cities (New York, Tokyo, Milan and Sao Paulo) were invited to submit their portfolio via Heineken’s Facebook page. The best entries were selected to present their ideas in person at a creative presentation night and a final line up of 19 designers was withheld. During the selection process, Heineken and InSites Consulting conducted a global research project with club goers to provide the designers with relevant and true consumer insights that would act as a briefing, relevant inspiration and a springboard for ideation.
‘The Heineken Concept Club Community’ with 120 design-savvy clubbers from 20 cities uncovered insights from real club life. Based on this connection with consumers, a consumer journey map was created, visualizing the needs, perception, experience and motivation of the club goers. This input and findings would have been useless if designers would not use it in their designs. Knowing designers could be obstinate as creatives, we had to find a way to report our insights in the most impactful way. It had to be a report they actually would read and would use during the creative process. We provided the designers with research data by integrating the insights into a visually strong infographic in the form of an iPad app (www.nightlifejourney.com). The app guided the designers through the 6 scenery’s of a night out (‘pre-club drinks and meeting-up’, ‘entering the club’, ‘going for a drink’, ‘dancing’, ‘chilling’ and ‘going home’) and told them what the role was of that spot in the overall night, what the clubbers’ expectations where in that specific moment; and especially the 5 most striking insights for each of the scenes. It was also indicated what possible design actions could be based on the consumer’s comments.
This consumer journey app was provided to the designers during a real life tour of nightlife hotspots in one of the design cities in order to take the real life observation of the clubbing environment and social interaction beyond the obvious. The immersion in the clubbing scene, combined with the knowledge of the insights coming from the iPad application, inspired designers to come up with consumer-centered ideas that truly challenged the current nightlife experience.
Philips – Sleepwell Community: Understanding Chinese Sleeping Behaviour through Crowd Interpretation
While well-known for light bulbs and consumer electronics, the large multinational electronics company Philips has product lines for sleep treatment. The company identified China as a potential new market for their sleeping solutions. Before entering this market, Philips had an interest in understanding the sleeping behavior of Chinese consumers and their drivers and barriers towards those solutions. A 3-week insight shaping community was conducted with 50 Chinese participants experiencing sleeping problems. There were a couple of challenges we faced in this project though such as budget and time restrictions as well as the fact that Philips executives wanted to be able to actively follow the online discussions. Therefore the online research community had to be run in English while the fear existed we would lose out in terms of the fine nuances in Chinese culture and society.
To avoid this caveat and increase positive feedback loops for enriched information generation we used 10 of our participants as our co-researchers in a process of crowd interpretation. After our analyses of the community outtakes these participants would be presented our findings and asked to challenge them. In performing the task of crowd interpretation these participants were asked to explain our findings from the Chinese cultural perspective, illustrate our findings with their own personal examples as well as go beyond our first impressions. This process created truly unique insights which we as researchers and marketers would never have uncovered from an online distance.
As a concrete example, our first analysis indicated that Chinese consumers told us sleeping was about for their psychological and physiological well-being, such as feeling upbeat, smiling and happiness. But the crowd interpretation taught us there was also a higher motivational element behind it. More importantly for Chinese people sleeping well allows one being able to work harder in order to be successful. Professional success ultimately brings material wealth and in the end status. Success and ambition are major drivers in the lives of the Chinese (as in many societies), but it’s not appropriate for them to communicate about this openly from their own personal perspective. Learning about this insight was important for Philips e.g. in developing the ideal communication message for sleeping solutions. The crowd interpretation taught us the real reason why Chinese consumers need good sleep goes beyond what participants explicitly shared in the open discussion.
Both cases illustrate that when information is hard to get, method engagement such as presenting consumer insights in creative ways triggers positive feedback loops that reveal information one would otherwise miss out completely. While online research communities are an ideal method to achieve this, technology alone is not enough – it is about engaging and activating people!