This past summer, we at Forrester continued to explore new and innovative methodologies. One of my highlights was visiting the IIeX conference in Atlanta back in June. And although I was impressed by the variety of new (qualitative) methodologies, it’s rarely a matter of choosing one or the other. The recent GRIT report by GreenBook shows, for example, that many market research online community (MROC) vendors dropped a few places in terms of innovation, but I agree with Andrew Leary from Ipsos SMX that these online communities will continue to play a relevant (and innovative!) role thanks to their flexibility and variability when it comes to size, duration, integration, and scale.

I recently researched the MROC space, interviewing all the major players to understand their capabilities and how they support organizations. I found that there are a number of ways that MROCs aid customer insights professionals, including:

  • Creating a better understanding of consumers’ drivers. MROCs allow us to ask consumers in an open-ended way to describe their experiences across the purchase journey, anywhere from the point they learn about or research the company to when they follow up for customer support. In turn, these findings can have an impact at any level of the organization. These insights become even more valuable for ongoing communities.
  • Diving deeper into quantitative findings. Pairing qualitative MROC research with quantitative tools helps generate additional views of the customer’s experience and tell the emotional story behind the numbers. Understanding the context can often illuminate new insights that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible, especially if the results seem counterintuitive. This is especially valuable for the larger communities.
  • Gathering on-demand feedback. Consumers have access to mobile wherever they go, and the versatility of these devices allows for MROC engagements in just as many times and places. In-the-moment feedback can often be the most accurate — as well as the most convenient for the consumer respondent. Community members are easy to access and quick to respond — offering great opportunities in situations where immediate feedback is needed.

To learn more about the benefits of MROCs as a methodology as well as the variability across MROC vendors, please check out my recent report Charting The 2015 Landscape Of Market Research Online Community Vendors. I’ll also be speaking more about the importance of using MROCs as part of a multimethodology approach to understanding the customer experience at the upcoming Corporate Researchers Conference, hosted by the Marketing Research Association, October 5-7 in St. Louis.

I hope to see you there!