Written by: Evan Goodfellow
We look at what market research online communities can be used for, such as product innovation, product support, and greater customer loyalty.
What are Market Research Online Communities Used for?
How a company obtains feedback and suggestions on its products sounds like a simple problem. However, the amount of dissatisfaction with what appears to be simple, easy-to-fix problems would appear to challenge that assumption. Last week I had the pleasure of going out for coffee and catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in some time. We met at Tim Horton’s and caught up on the usual topics, family, hobbies, and work. My friend works for a large mining company in Northern Canada. He was asking me about work, and I mentioned to him about my researching and writing on market research online community software. My friend is very analytical, he often works on large machinery and is interested in the mechanics of how things work. He asked me to describe the mechanics of online communities. I gave him the abridged version, of how the software can be used for co-creation of products, and how it can be used to improve existing products, as well as retaining customers. After I was done my brief description, he was quiet. I was wondering if that was the polite form of not being interested, and a sign to move on to the next topic of conversation. I asked, “does that sound boring to you?” His reply caught me by surprise. He stated that this software sounded like a great idea, and proceeded to tell me why.
Your Coffee Lids May Be Cheap, But They Are Costing You!
His first example was the coffee shop that we were at. My friend loves Tim Horton’s coffee. He pointed to their lids, and said, “try to close that,” referring to the opening on the lid from which you can drink. I pushed it shut and it popped right back up again. The lids are horrible he stated. He began to explain how he had just bought a new truck and went to great lengths to keep it clean. When driving around the city he doesn’t want to get a Tim Hortons for the car because the lid doesn’t seal and it ends up spilling. If he has errands to run around the city he will either bring a thermos to pour his Tim Horton’s coffee into, or go to McDonald’s for his coffee. You know why McDonalds? They have good coffee in his opinion, not as good as Tim Horton’s, but the lid is better and it keeps his truck clean. Simply put, he said his other friends have all discussed their hatred for the lid, but if they were to complain they were skeptical the suggestion would be escalated and dealt with.
The second reason he could see the importance of an online community had to do with tools. Working with tools, and being a welder and a handyman, my friend is always using tools and often thinks to himself, this tool is good but if they had created this feature or that, then it would be that much better. An example of a tool that could work better was a Brad Nailer that he had bought to do the trim in his house. The gun worked well, except when it came to having to reload the nail cartridges. They would often get jammed and he would spend 5 minutes on each reload trying to unjam the gun or keep it from jamming.
Classic Car Restoration Communities
He then went on to explain how an online research community could be used for his specific interests. He is heavily into restoring old cars and trucks. He recently rebuilt an antique Chevrolet truck. A company like Chevrolet could create a branded community and perhaps create a community of individuals interested in restoring classic cars and trucks. This allows individuals with a love for Chevrolet to discuss parts and techniques in rebuilding these vehicles, but also allows Chevrolet to increase brand loyalty by providing a place for aficionado’s to meet. Not to mention, when Chevrolet is re-releasing old classics in a modern form, having a qualitative research community of individuals who know the workings of the old classics and who could provide input on new designs or features of redesigned classics.
As we discussed the different uses for it, he asked what the response had been by companies. He was curious about what stopped a company from purchasing the software and what seemed like a no-brainer could actually garner hesitance. I explained that although MROC’s are not new, they still seem new to many. While there are articles, conferences, and research papers on their effectiveness, the pickup has been mainly by large companies.
As we finished our coffee and paid the bill, I was struck by the untapped opportunities that were possible with communities. If I could obtain that amount and quality of input, what could be done with a 100 similar individuals, all willing and happy to provide input on what they are expert on……..your products?
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