5 Reasons to Use Communities to Gather Customer Insight

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Andrew Reid, Vision Critical
Andrew Reid, Vision Critical

What use of online communities delivers maximum impact in terms of marketing, and why?

When you think of a community-based approach, you may fall back on social media pop stars Facebook and Twitter. However, I'm going to focus on insight communities and the value they bring to marketers. While social media and other online engagement tools can yield a significant amount of information about consumers and their perceptions, only a community (private or closed) of engaged individuals that regularly weigh in on your brand or organization can give you the necessary insights to make meaningful business decisions.

Here are five reasons why marketers need to adopt a community-based approach to gathering insights:

Constant connectivity with your key market

What brand wouldn't want to have a large amount of customers at its disposal for input on new products, services, ads, promotional material, and more? Unless you're a mirror image of what your customers look like, you'll need their insight to make informed decisions. A solid community of engaged individuals has the ability to understand, test, and validate ideas. Banana Republic, for example, has a Banana Republic Insiders community of 50,000 shoppers who engage with the retailer on everything from trends, colors, and patterns to promotions and in-store layout. Not long ago, Banana Republic actually asked its members to upload photos of how they wear their clothing and how they pair items with other brands. The retailer uses such feedback to help stay ahead of seasonal trends.

Lightning fast feedback on anything

One of the biggest problems with Big Data is speed. When there's a lot of information, it takes time to sift through it. Some studies can take months to complete and result in volumes of information to read through. An insight community is software based, so it's easy to pull data from. Marketers who use communities can inquire about something and in some cases get feedback in less than a day.

Understand the fringes of your customers

Are your customers watching Orange is the New Black? Do they think Instagram is only for kids? Most marketers are buried in behavioral data, or what I call rear view mirror data. But how can you get a sense of your customers outside of information that's old news. How can you understand where they're looking and what they may want? Online communities can gives brands that fresh, proprietary intelligence about the customers who matter most.

Deep dive into people's lives

By now, Kimberly-Clark probably knows what moms look for in diapers. It's probably something the brand has known for years, but it can always learn something new. The day a brand stops trying to improve and innovate is the day it falls behind. Imagine you're Kimberly-Clark; wouldn't you want to know what hundreds of moms' baby rooms looked like to help you predict what colors, styles, and products will resonate best with mothers? A community-based approach helps a brand get closer to its customers by getting into their daily lives continuously.

Attitudes change over time

Attitudes and opinions change over time. It's crucial for a business to always have a pulse on the ever-changing views of its customer, the economy, political scene, and, most important, the competition. Insight communities are able to capture data over time and make sense of it to identify patterns and trends that can help make better decisions in the future.

We live in a data-driven world where the voice of the customer is too often an afterthought. Insight communities give brands immediate access to large representative groups of stakeholders that will deliver honest feedback. Additionally, insight communities reverse the role of market research from being reactive to being proactive. They're the ultimate insurance policy in the daunting world today's marketers live in.

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Andrew Reid, Vision Critical

In 2000 Reid—founder, president, and chief product officer of Vision Critical—created the company to bring innovative online platforms to the market research industry and provide consumer insights that aim to give businesses a competitive edge. Within a year the company tripled in size. By 2008 Vision Critical ranked as the 50th fastest growing company in Canada by Deloitte Technology Fast 50; and a year later it was the 44th fastest growing company in North America by Deloitte Fast 500. Reid has been selected as a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award and was further honored as one of Canada's 40 under 40 by Caldwell Partners International and The Globe and Mail. In 2011 Reid completed Stanford University's Graduate School of Business Executive Program. He's an active member of the Vancouver chapter of the Young Presidents Organization, the Variety Children's Charity Strategic Advisory Council, and a club member of the New Media B.C. Organization. He sits on the Board of Directors for the B.C. Technology Industry Association.

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