My colleague Lindsey Colella and I attended the Vision Critical Summit in New York this week and were inspired by how market insights professionals are truly embracing the value of market research online communities (MROCs). Among the emerging and innovative methodologies, this is the one that we are seeing gaining significant traction: The Greenbook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report shows that this is the top emerging methodology used by client-side researchers — with 36% currently leveraging it.

What did we learn at the event? In addition to reinforcing MROC best-practice tips like closing the loop with panelists and incentivizing in a relevant way, which Lindsey recently wrote about in her report “Best Practices For Managing A Market Research Online Community,” the following best practices and examples caught our attention:

·         Internal marketing is critical. Market insights professionals need to “sell” the value of MROCs to various business units across the organization. One electronics retailer did that by hosting monthly meetings in which the MI team presented all the research collected in the MROC to the cross-function business leaders.  

·         Anticipate your company’s needs. Market insights professionals need to understand what the key business initiatives are for the different business units and plan their community engagements accordingly. The MI team for a beauty products manufacturer anticipated that one of its business departments would need data about consumer purchasing habits around holidays. Anticipating this need, it ran several community exercises and had the data ready when the department asked — thereby increasing the speed of providing insights and keeping the MI team in the conversation with the executive management team.

·         Use it with moderation. When market insights professionals or any of their internal stakeholders have 24×7 access to consumers, the urge to ask every question under the sun is, inevitably, strong. Market insights professionals responsible for managing their MROC need to challenge their internal stakeholders’ questions. Several MI teams mentioned that they forced their internal stakeholders to ask questions like “Am I prepared to consider making changes based on the feedback I receive from the MROC?”

·         A direct pipeline to the consumer is an invaluable asset. For many companies that don’t directly sell to their consumers, a place where they can virtually hear consumers’ voices and opinions holds a value that goes way beyond ROI. And being able to return to the same group over time gives market insights professionals a deeper understanding of their consumers. A plumbing fixture manufacturer mentioned the importance of being able to track its consumers through the life of the product they purchased by going back to them six months or even a year down the road to understand whether they still loved the fixture they had purchased.

All around, it was a great event at which to talk with fellow market insights professionals about the power of listening to and conversing with your customers. The future is definitely bright for this emerging methodology; it has the potential to account for 15% to 20% of all market research spend.

What do you think? For those market insights professionals using MROCs, what other best-practice tips do you think are critical in ensuring the value of MROCs?