The market research industry, and the community category in particular, is constantly evolving to provide additional capabilities that allow organizations to fully understand their customers and make better and faster decisions. Market research online communities allow researchers to reach deeper insights faster. These insights propel organizations toward better decisions and more market success. When deciding on the right community supplier, the following are some critical factors to consider.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Market Research Online Community Supplier
1. Community Platform Capabilities
When choosing a market research online community supplier, it is important to prioritize the platform’s technological capabilities. The spread between what various community platforms (software) can deliver in the way of research tools can be quite large. A fundamental element is the scalability of the platform. Many researchers are now looking to run larger communities for either an increased use of quantitative techniques or being able to have a reasonable number of respondents when segmenting the overall community.
Community suppliers that don't have their own community platform may find it difficult to deliver higher-level activities, functions, and capabilities. Some examples include: online focus groups, dial-testing, advanced filtering, statistical tools, UX online evaluations and more.
With an increased emphasis on advanced features, scale, data security, and flexibility, it is critical to understand community supplier platform capabilities.
2. Insight Delivery Team Capabilities & Mindset
When choosing an online community supplier, the people supporting the community and delivering the insights matter as much or more than the platform. Having a truly committed team with specific community experience is a critical factor in success.
Community managers should be equipped with expertise and knowledge in qualitative research, quantitative research, project management skills, and analysis, and they should possess a natural intellectual curiosity. In addition, your community manager should be passionate about the client’s community and their goals.
3. Community Design and Launch
Designing a community architecture to fit the needs of the client is a critical starting point. Important decisions to make include determining the number of members in the community and whether to include multiple brands within one community or separating them. The appearance and name of the community are also important. Will the community carry the client organization’s brand(s) or be unbranded and carry a description around the category? Does the supplier have experience with branding and segmentation? Has it had other clients with multiple brands housed within one community? How many communities does the supplier suggest? A quality supplier will have experience handling similar projects and be able to develop a plan that meets the needs of the organization.
It is also important to know what type of project experience the supplier possesses. Some examples of project types include: product concept evaluation, exploring the customer purchase journey, developing buyer “personas”, evaluating the usability of a website, and much more!
4. Community Engagement Plans
Learn what the supplier has in terms of plans for maintaining engagement among community members. Look for a supplier that understands, and has an overall respect and appreciation for, the members of the community. Respecting and appreciating your members can maintain the relationship even more than the hard incentives associated with the community. Some ways to show appreciation for your members can be through platform features such as participation points and badges. Frequency and consistency of communication and activities are also key when planning for high engagement levels.
An experienced insights team is an important factor in overall engagement success. The team’s interactions with members keeps participants excited and willing to engage on an ongoing basis. An experienced team also knows how to close the engagement loop by thanking members for their participation and sharing back study results when dealing with non-confidential information.
5. Reporting Speed & Timing
Knowing the general timeline in which reports are given is also of great importance when selecting a supplier. Communities allow for continuous feedback and there is a legitimate expectation of speed, so it is helpful to understand what information is available in real-time and what capabilities the vendor has when it comes to delivering a final report. Also, it is a good idea to gain an understanding of what information format types are available (e.g. PDF, PowerPoint, Excel, SPSS). The community supplier should be able to provide a very specific answer to these questions.
6. Contract & Operational Flexibility
Learn the degree of flexibility available within the contract; some suppliers are strict and don’t allow for additional activities without an added cost, making for incremental and unfortunate surprises. Ask the supplier how they have handled variation in the number of activities in a given month or projects that require an expedited timeline.
7. Differentiating Features
With disruptive technologies such as AI, there is a lot of competition to differentiate platform technologies and overall service.
More advanced community suppliers will be able to discuss their differentiation and positioning. For instance, a supplier may use technology to deliver insights with more speed when compared to competitors based on automation. Having a conversation along these lines can give context about which supplier culture and capabilities best fit your organization’s needs.
8. Overall Cost
Some of the variables that can impact community cost include the number of activities running per month, the number of members in the community, recruiting, and incentives.
Also, understand the details and costs behind data analysis and reporting. For example, will the supplier code and analyze the open-ended responses? What specific information will be included in the final reports?
Although the contract holds the basic parameters of the community, it's important to understand if there are additional charges if more activities run through the community than originally projected, or if there are charges for more specialized tasks. An elite supplier will greatly limit or eliminate unexpected incremental costs through good upfront definition and flexibility.
Interested in a market research online community? My-Take has helped organizations make smarter decisions and market more effectively through powerful market research online communities and panels for 10 years! Contact our team today to learn more about how our market research online community platform can connect your brand with your consumers.