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Five Challenges to Overcome for Successful Market Research Online Communities

As with every methodology, there are some potential challenges to overcome with online communities to ensure you generate strong results.

By Lisa Boughton

Market research online communities are a popular, fast growing research method with numerous benefits for researchers and participants alike. When well-managed, MROCs can deliver unbeatable insights instantly, giving researchers access to participants’ thoughts that they just didn’t have before. Not only that, but because they take place online in a safe and secure setting, participants feel comfortable voicing their opinions and can do so anytime, anywhere – meaning that MROCs easily fit in around respondents’ busy lifestyles. When you add in the fact that market research online communities can often be quicker and more cost efficient than traditional methods, it’s clear to see why they are such a hit in the market research world. However, as with every methodology, there are some potential challenges to overcome to ensure you generate the results you deserve…

  1. Eliminating recruitment risks and the danger of dropouts

If you have certain quotas and specific segments you need to adhere to, it can be a struggle to find respondents – and when you do find them, you’ll want to do everything you can to keep them! There are several strategies you can enlist during recruitment to ensure that your MROC runs smoothly and your respondents stay engaged. Firstly, make sure you let them know exactly what is expected of them so there are no surprises. Do they need to dedicate 30 minutes a day for a month? Or is your project more ad-hoc and flexible? Either way, outlining the requirements from the beginning in a clear document will make a dramatic difference. Additionally, we always recommend an over-recruit of 20-30% so if the worst does happen and you do have dropouts on the day, you’ll be prepared.

  1. Ensuring your onboarding goes smoothly

Not having a sufficient onboarding process can impact the whole study. From problems logging onto the platform to being asked to carry out tasks they weren’t expecting to complete, not having an onboarding strategy can result in disgruntled respondents dropping out. Don’t worry, though – there are a few things you can do to prevent this happening, such as allowing plenty of time for onboarding before the community starts (up to 48 hours where possible) and including an ice-breaker to help respondents feel more comfortable with each other – which in turn leads to more honest and insightful responses in the tasks.

  1. Encouraging participation and boosting engagement

It’s important that your participants feel valued throughout the project to keep them engaged, and offering bonus incentives in addition to the initial incentive received for taking part in the community can be a fantastic way to do this. You can also enlist a Community Manager to deal with any concerns and answer any questions to help boost engagement. It’s important to keep in contact with your respondents, so think about how long your community will last and plan how often you will follow up with your participants – if your research community is lasting a week, for example, you might want to reach out to participants everyday. A phone call is generally the best way to do this as it means any issues can be addressed immediately. You should also think about how you will remind participants to complete their tasks – a gentle nudge via text message can work well to remind them of upcoming deadlines.

  1. Overcoming tricky technology issues

One of the biggest challenges to overcome is choosing the right software, with problems such as a lack of support or software that is difficult to use resulting in dropouts. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself exactly what you need from the research and tailor your software accordingly. It’s also worth considering using an app to make life easy for your participants, enabling them to access the community and complete tasks on the go. Before the community starts, be sure to provide respondents with an information sheet outlining what to do and who to contact, and you should also demo the software as well as testing it on respondents beforehand to iron out any issues. To combat any problems once the community is up and running, make sure there is a contact number for respondents to call both in and outside of office hours, so any issues are dealt with swiftly. Find out more about choosing the right software here.

  1. Increasing engagement through interesting tasks

Another issue with market research online communities is ensuring you choose the right tasks. By creating a variety of different tasks, you can keep the project exciting and your respondents engaged. From blogging and discussion tasks to idea generation and picture books, making sure you offer fun, frequent and flexible activities that appeal to your participants can ensure your respondents are keen to get involved and share their opinions with you. Have a look here for some inspiration on how to choose exciting tasks to keep your community engaged.

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