Planning out your next marketing strategy to hopefully capture the attention of your target customers? Perhaps you’re just curious as to what all the fuss has been about Market Research Online Communities (aka MROCs). Whatever your situation, in this post we’ll discuss how this research method works and the importance of MROCs in today’s ever-changing data-driven society.
What is a Market Research Online Community?
A Market Research Online Community, or MROC, is a relatively new research method wherein qualitative research is combined with online data gathering. A Market Research Community is often called an “insights community”, and is best compared to a focus group that takes place online instead of in a research facility. In 2008, Forrester Research was amongst the first to form a definition for MROC: A Market Research Online Community is a group of captive interactive people online joined together by a common interest, which is systematically harvested for qualitative market research purposes.
MROCSs can be ad hoc, but can also run for longer periods of time. Most importantly they are specifically custom designed for research purposes. By making research participants online community members, you can gather insights from the market through spontaneous contributions as part of lively online focus group discussions. You can make your research real time, and even gather rich responses by encouraging the cool stuf like video journals. It’s like market-research enabled social networking.
What is the objective of a MROC?
An MROC is usually used by individuals or companies that need data and/or feedback collected from a certain group of people without the hassle of doing it manually. Qualitative data is collected and used to sell or improve products for commercial businesses; for testing theories; and conducting studies for research purposes. The objective is to collect personal information from many different people from all over the world and distribute them to companies that require a specific quality or characteristic for research purposes.
Greenbook Directory gives this definition:
“A market research online community is a targeted group of people who are recruited into a private online venue to participate in research-related activities over an extended period of time.”
To better understand what an MROC is, let us apply it in a situation.
A researcher from Harvard University studies, if there is a relationship between child abuse to divorce rates in the United States. He now requires a group of individuals who have gotten abused as a child and people who are divorced. He cannot simply knock on people’s doors and expect them to give him their information, and so he uses MROC to find people that fit his study’s criteria and draw a conclusion from the data he gathered.
The 3 Types of MROC
Short-term communities are pretty self-explanatory, they are communities that are put together for a short-term project. There are studies in which it only takes the researchers 3-7 days to 3 months to collect data from a group of people, typically a short-term community consists of 50 people or less. A short-term community is often used to receive fast insights and information on a certain community.
Pop-up / On-Off communities
The purpose of a “pop-up” or and on-off is for ongoing research on a community. This means that people are given notices and assignments when they are needed. This is usually caused by not having enough budget to run a continuous online community or the lack of research questions that you have to be answered by the community. Usually, there are 50-250 on-call group of people that are sent invoices if they are needed. Think of this as a part-time job, you only need to show up for work when you are called to do so.
Continuous Online Community
A continuous online community typically is for larger projects and longer research. This requires a team of people, usually, around 200 to 5000 individuals are involved in a continuous online community research. Building a continuous online community requires plenty of investment and energy. Budget is typically higher than a short-term and an on-off community because of the number of people you are paying and the duration in which they are involved in your community.
Now it’s time to ask yourself…
Source: NUSA research
What’s the best MROC option for you?
There are a lot of things to consider when creating an market research online community and here are some things to take into consideration when deciding what kind of community will best fit your needs.
- Budget – How much are you willing to spend for the information that you need? Obviously, the longer you conduct the data mining, the longer you have to pay the people involved and the larger population of people you hire, the more pockets you will have to pay.
- Time – How long do you need to conduct the gathering of information before you get accomplish your objective of using a marketing research online community? Not all research studies take only a week to conduct. Some need months and few need years of the test subject to gather a verifiable result.
- Quality – There is a possibility of compromising the quality of information you receive from short-term communities, this is due to the lower amount of days and people, thus an added pressure that may affect the quality of work done.
Common MROC Challenges (and how to overcome them)
While the use of MROC is beneficial to researchers, there are still some road bumps along the way. Here are some of the challenges that researchers face:
1. Finding respondents and keeping them
If you’ve got a quote to meet or certain segments you need to focus on, finding enough people can be a real challenge. Then there’s the additional challenge of keeping them once you’ve found them! The key to keeping quality respondents is setting expectations upfront in terms of how often you’ll need them, and what you expect of them.
Greenbook recommends over-recruiting by 20 to 30% to ensure that you’ve got enough people in the event of dropouts.
2. Overcoming technology issues
Finding the right research community platform is only the first tech issue you’re going to have to face. Beyond selecting your community platform, you’ll then need to ensure you have adequate post-sales support in the event that things go wrong. When it comes to tech, things can often go wrong, so be prepared for it with a backup plan.
3. Ensuring a smooth onboarding for participants
Imagine you’ve just committed to sign up to participate in an MROC, and then during the registration process you struggle to create a profile and log onto the platform… what would be your first thought? Chances are, not a positive one!
You might decide to scrap it and find something else to do, and not ever come back. Whilst this might sound overly-dramatic it’s happened before. So you want to ensure that you test your onboarding process, at least a couple of days before your research period goes live, and iron out any kinks in the onboarding.
4. Increasing engagement and participation
By adding a variety of tasks and having a gamification strategy you can increase the participation of respondents. Building a successful online research community can be tough, but the great news is that there are several examples of companies that have done it well, and there are proven community platforms to make the process simpler.
MROC: A better way to collect data and insights
We may not recognize it, but the ads we see on around us are all because of the data collected by research about the target market. Every product we use has been formulated by studying the population and extracting information to hopefully better fit the needs of a community. Whilst the MROC way of collecting data may still be relatively new, it’s definitely proven to be useful for many companies. Instead of a company painstakingly asking individuals one at a time to answer surveys for them to improve their product, they now have an easier and efficient way of collecting the data that is needed.
Which of the 3 types of MROC listed above is most appropriate for your company at this time?