This time, we actually gonna stay in the building, yet open the doors and windows to the world. We try to gain some DIY ideas by examining one of the top trends in Market Research at the moment – online research communities.
WHAT? Using online platforms to interact with your target customers – basically, the idea is to set up a mini community that works like a forum/blog/chat platform and allows you to conduct discussions with your potential segments without actually being close to them.
An example how Market Research Online Communities look like and some ideas how to structure your own, of course in a less complicated way
HOW? I mainly recommend this tool to those who already have the necessary capacity and know-how to create websites, as the easiest (ergo: cheapest) way is to develop your own closed (private) sub-site that is available by password. Basically, you should create a protected platform that works like a private site that is only available by password and invite your target customers (from 15 people to a 100 people, depending on your capacities) to that site. Imagine it as a forum or chat platform where you can launch research topics / questions and spark a discussion among members. A more simple version is to send out guides, aka a list of qualitative, open-ended questions to respondents and set up a particular sub-page to each of them (again, protected by password), asking them to simply upload their responses.
WHY? The main advantage is that you can actually be (physically) far from your target customer, yet you can still conduct in-depth research without the need to set a date to actually talk, Skype etc. Another advantage is that respondents can interact with each other, which might lead to deeper insights, the sincere opinion and causal connections revealed. Further advantage is that respondents have more time to think about the questions and they also feel less awkward when they have this degree of “anonimity”, with no need to stare into the hungry eyes of the developer.:)
Of course, it also has some limitations, e.g. it is impossible to observe subtle nonverbal signs and get deeper into one single topic/question, but you can still add notes and “prompt” people if you notice that they said something interesting but have not explained it well.
WHO? I really only recommend it to those who 1) have the capacity to set up and host (private) websites, e.g. have IT developers or software engineers on board (hurray) 2) have the patience to recruit people and keep them motivated to stay on board till the research phase/project is finished (engagement, engagement, engagement!), 3) have the possibility to rent “licensed” community software platforms, e.g. that of DUB and/or a research consultant to do the “research part”.It is a bit more complex than going out to do customer interviews, but it can also be much more engaging and means a constant contact to target customers.
WHERE? On a closed surface, protected by password, online.
WHEN? Seriously, at any point, from validating ideas to testing MVP-s and developing new features.
FINAL ADVICE: The main aim is to get some target consumers participate in your project and invite them to the community just like you would to an interview or survey (with the exception that you may have to get them super-engaged or provide some…ehhm…incentive) – owing to the characteristics, it might be a great way to recruit a “hardcore” customer consulting panel from your sign-up or Beta user members.
Create a platform with basic tools for uploading text and interaction, prepare some relevant and interesting questions, moderate the discussion every now and then, asking new and new questions (or get someone to do it for you) and there you are, interacting with people without boundaries.