How to Develop an Ongoing Dialogue with Customers That Drives ROI

By: Richard Clarke, VP, Head of Insight Communities


Insight Communities: A Proven Solution to Customer Insight with Serious ROI

This is the era of give your customers what they want or risk losing their attention or favor. Customer research is increasingly important to provide your company with the information it needs to maintain and attract happy customers. One challenge companies often face is the cost of implementing a reliable way to engage with their customers to drive insight that also provides a return on investment (ROI). Insight Communities are a highly effective and reliable way to engage with your customers and have been proven to drive positive ROI.

Insight Communities are an online research solution that is used to consistently engage with and provide insight on the desires and needs of your customers, stakeholders and shareholders. These communities are built to help companies answer the business issues at hand with engaged members who, ultimately, drive advocacy for their brand. Insight Communities are organizational assets that both inform business decisions and create brand advocacy among members.

Breaking Down the ROI of Insight Communities

There are many ways that the ROI can be measured—consider the cost savings of:

  • QUICKER reaction time to customer feedback and demand—what is the short- and long-term savings of rapidly reacting to the situation or knowing your customers’ buyer journey and pain points?
  • Launching the RIGHT product to market at a FASTER pace—how much does speeding up the development cycle and ensuring the RIGHT solution save?
  • Making more informed/ACCURATE BUSINESS DECISIONS—what is the cost savings of NOT doing the wrong thing or validating the decision (risk aversion)?

Forrester Consulting completed a Total Economic Impact™ study on the ROI of Insight Communities to clients. In addition to the cost efficiencies and speed value propositions of Insight Communities, Forrester quantified the financial value of continually engaging with members in a community. The highlights include:

  • $1.7M business value from increased customer insight
  • 590% ROI
  • $546K incremental profit and $4.7M increased sales from community members
  • 39% increase in average order value and 70% lower churn rate from community members
  • 75% reduction in cost compared to traditional market research methodologies
  • 4–6 times faster speed to results

This reaffirms that Insight Communities not only provide fast and efficient consumer insight but also drive business action that results in incremental sales and profit for organizations.

These are just some of the reasons that organizations are implementing communities. The client stories about the impact of an ongoing Insight Community are powerful and continue to prove the short- and long-term ROI. Shifting the focus to consumer engagement is resulting in hundreds of organizations realizing significant returns and outcomes.

A Proven Solution for Customer Engagement

Five years ago, Insight Communities were more of a niche solution or emerging technology, but according to the latest GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report (GRIT Q3/Q4 2018), 80% of respondents stated that Insight Communities are either in use (59%) or under consideration (21%). This has led GreenBook to believe that Insight Communities are now a mainstream solution:

“Online Communities and Mobile First Surveys continue to lead the pack as formerly emerging methods that are now in mainstream use.” (GRIT Q3/Q4 2018)

Ultimately, these two pieces of evidence indicate that Insight Communities are not only a solution that spreads efficient business insight across an organization but also an asset that drives revenue and profitability—thereby attaching real-world ROI to the value of the asset.

Contact me to learn more about how Insight Communities can become your most powerful asset.


Insight Communities – Driving ROI, Not Just Research Value

Richard Clarke, Vice President
Global Partnerships, VisionCritical

For decades, research has delivered powerful consumer sentiment and opinion into organizations – enabling these organizations to put the voice of the consumer into their decisions with the goal of creating more meaningful, successful, and effective products and services.

Methods and modes have changed over the years, with more and more complex solutions being created to get closer to the consumer truth at an ever-increasing speed. Incredible insight has been (and will continue to be) gleaned from consumers, informing multiple parts of clients’ business eco-systems. However, for many clients and users, research is seen as a cost center within an organization – something that needs to be done as part of a process or something that must be purchased as part of the broader vision of the business. The value of research is not generally associated as being an integral and fundamental part of overall business planning and development.

This is why whenever there is a downturn in business performance, or regional/global downturns (ex: 2008 Global Financial Crisis), one of the first areas to be questioned and lose budget is research.

What is the “value” that research is delivering?

There are many answers to this question, both objective and subjective, however, too few times does research itself get directly linked back to business performance. Ultimately, asking about the “value” of research is the wrong question. We should be asking: What is the “Return on Investment” of research? Because that is what research is: an investment into the organization, and not a cost.

There are many ways that Return on Investment in research can be measured, including:

  • More informed/accurate business decisions – what is the cost savings from NOT doing the wrong thing or validating the decision (risk aversion)?
  • Faster to market with the RIGHT product – how much does speeding up the development cycle save?
  • Quicker reaction time to customer feedback and demand – what is the short- and long-term savings of rapidly reacting to the situation or of knowing your customers’ buyer journey and pain points?

For years, I have been an advocate of research and Insight Communities – the idea of engaging with individuals to answer the business issues at hand with engaged members who, ultimately, also drive advocacy for the brand. Insight Communities should not be considered a research “cost” but rather as an organizational asset that both informs business decisions and creates brand advocacy among members.

Forrester Consulting recently completed a Total Economic Impact™ Study on the ROI of Insight Communities to clients. In addition to the cost efficiencies and speed value propositions of Insight Communities, Forrester quantified the financial value of continually engaging with members in a community. The highlights include:

  • $1.7M business value from increased customer insight
  • 590% ROI
  • $546K incremental profit and $4.7M increased sales from community members
  • 39% increase in average order value and 70% lower churn rate from community members
  • 75% reduction in cost compared to traditional market research methodologies
  • 4-6x faster speed to results

This continues to reaffirm the belief that an Insight Community is not only an incredibly valuable tool in providing fast and efficient consumer insight, but also drives business action that results in incremental sales and profit for organizations.

These are just some of the reasons that organizations are implementing communities. The client stories about the impact of an ongoing Insight Community are powerful and continue to prove out the short-term and long-term Return on Investment. Shifting the mindset to consumer engagement is resulting in hundreds of organizations realizing significant returns and outcomes (click here for client stories).

Five years ago, communities were more of a niche solution or emerging technology but, according to the latest GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report (Q3 2017), 82% of respondents stated that communities were either in use (60%) or under consideration (22%). This has led GreenBook to no longer believe that they are an emerging solution but are, in fact, a mainstream solution:

“In future editions of GRIT, it is likely that online communities will also be removed from “emerging methods” now that it is mainstream.” (GRIT Q3/Q4 2017).

Ultimately, these two pieces of evidence indicate that an Insight Community is not only a solution that spreads efficient business insight across organizations but is also an asset that drives revenue and profitability – thereby attaching a real-world ROI to the value of the asset.

Feel free to contact me to learn more about how an Insight Community can become your most powerful asset.


Change is in the Air (and not Just for Market Research)

Change is in the air (and not just for market research)

By Richard Clarke, Vice President, Key Global Partners  |  Vision Critical

2016 has been a year of enormous change.  As I sit here on November 9th 2016, change is something that everyone is contemplating in the US and throughout the world and the implications of this change is yet to be realized as to the impact on our daily lives; regardless of if you perceive this change to be good or bad.

This change comes on the back of Brexit on June 23, 2016 which again created enormous ripples of change and anxiety throughout the world and economies.  When Brexit occurred and as a British Citizen who has been very lucky to travel the world for both business and pleasure, I was sitting in Hong Kong watching from a far the implications of that decision and that change and wondering what it would mean for all of us.

I have since moved back to the US and I am considering all that has happened this year, most recently the U.S. presidential election. I have viewed this through a different lens – a professional lens. So what can we learn from these major societal changes that have occurred in 2016?  As someone that has been engaged and involved in Market Research on a global level for 21 years it has been fascinating to see how many “polls” have gotten 2016 “wrong” (or supposedly so).  What is the impact on market research and polling and the trustworthiness that we as an industry are perceived to provide to the world; how will this affect my livelihood?

What I realize the lesson for me is this year, is that the only constant is change itself and we should not be surprised by these supposedly big upsets.  In 2016, we have seen this and it reaffirms a belief that I have that in this modern day of hyper connectivity, big data and always-on consumerism; we as people and brands need to stay engaged and connected with the people and brands that matter most to us – not just measure numbers and pay lip service to listening – but truly engage in an ongoing dialogue.

As things change and while we try to predict what is going to happen, we as people, brands and businesses can’t and don’t always get it right.  Therefore, the necessity for engagement and relationships is key to be able to adjust and learn as the world changes around us – if we are not engaging with people and establishing an open dialogue, then we risk not getting the right answers.  Listening, connecting and having people buy in to what we as brands are doing translates into results and actions and ultimately loyalty – this can only occur from the establishment of two-way dialogues where both parties talk, ask questions, listen and ultimately establish mutual trust and shared value.

Clients and users of the research industry have the opportunity to do just that; we have the opportunity to not just ask questions (poll people), but actually listen, engage, and collaborate to establish a shared value for all parties involved.  This is the concept of what Insight Communities are – establishing a two-way engagement with customers to drive change and action, not just measure.

Perhaps the key is not just asking questions but connecting with people. And as researchers and marketers that is our role – to connect with individuals and consumers, understand them and create shared value that drives action and outcomes.

If 2016 has taught us anything, it is the necessity to adapt (and change) in this new world and not to be shocked by the unexpected.  For research and for our clients we have to adapt away from just asking questions into a world of engagement where we enable change for our businesses through shared values and collaborative approaches.

It has reminded us that we as businesses need to put our most important stakeholders, our customers, firmly and squarely in the center of what we do – enabling an ongoing dialogue to impact the change and growth that we as businesses want and need to see.  If we don’t, we risk being irrelevant and passed over because we make assumptions – is that a risk any of us wants to take in a world where the only constant is change?


Richard Clarke is VP of Key Global Partnerships at Vision Critical, working with Morpace on expanding communities and their reach for Morpace clients.


Change, Courage, and Possibilities

OpportunityBy: Dania Rich-Spencer, Vice President

As you may know, the Q1-Q2 2016 GRIT report was recently released. I always look forward to learning what’s new and exciting in the market research world, and to gaining a deeper appreciation for our client’s perspective. With the most comprehensive sample to date–2,144 completed interviews and participants from 70 countries–this wave delivers an impressive examination of an industry in the process of reinventing itself.

As I was processing the breadth of information in the report, I glanced at a picture on my office wall. A colleague gave me a beautiful picture with the saying “Change of any sort, requires courage.” I frequently look at this picture for inspiration when dealing with personal and professional challenges, and honestly, some days it’s hard to look away!

There is no doubt the disruptive change the market research industry is experiencing requires courageous adjustments from both Research Buyers and Suppliers. ESOMAR recently presented the “Future of Market Research” webinar where they highlighted the necessity for a team-based approach. The case was made that in order to effectively communicate research findings and influence C-Suite decision makers, a multi-disciplinary approach is required. Weaving together a cohesive story and presenting it in a consultative fashion requires contribution not only from a researcher, but also from a data scientist, a synthesizer, a journalist, and an influential storyteller. This insights team needs to be comprised of creative individuals who are motivated by intellectual curiosity, have a desire to influence, and are comfortable working in a fast-paced, unstructured environment.

I’m confident the industry will successfully manage the human capital transition and adopt a more consultative role to drive positive, sustainable change. However, unless we have a comprehensive understanding of what influences consumers’ decisions and precisely why they choose one product or service over another, the impact of the Voice of Customer will be under-stated.

Online research communities deliver vibrant customer stories riddled with illuminating detail that provide contextual understanding. Unlike brand communities or social media, research communities offer an agile solution for developing a synergistic and mutually respectful relationship between customer and company.

As an example, when defectors in an ad hoc Exit Survey were asked the reason for leaving a health plan, cost was the primary reason year after year. However, when exploring potential defection with members of the client’s research community, when cost was comparable, members’ experience with customer support and their emotional attachment to the company played a much larger role in their decision to change carriers. The ongoing, two-way dialogue inherent in a research community enables the customer relationship to be transformed from survey taker to trusted advisor.

It takes courage to build this type of relationship with customers and it takes courage to put legacy systems behind us. The market research industry has a history of making courageous adjustments to consumers’ changing habits and demands of the marketplace. I have another picture on my wall–“When nothing is certain, everything is possible.”


It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! No, It’s A MROC

It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's a MROCBy: Dania Rich-Spencer, Vice President

A few weeks ago, I prepared a one-page marketing piece on our Claros Research Communities for our commercial vehicle practice leader to take to the NTEA Work Truck Show. I thought I hit the mark on how a commercial vehicle OEM would benefit from having a dedicated group of purchase decision makers and drivers in their own private research community. To my surprise, the practice leader came back and asked “Is it possible to give me one sentence that defines a community?”

While this was a little disheartening given the “punchy” language I used in the marketing piece, it reminded me of a similar situation with another colleague who asked, “What is it (online research community)?” just a few weeks earlier.

Research communities have been widely used for over a decade, and the term MROC (Market Research Online Community) was coined by Forrester in 2008; however, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty around what an online research community is. Stepping back and thinking about this, I guess this isn’t all that surprising.

Forrester defined MROC as a qualitative market research tool, best leveraged for discovery and exploration for new product development, concept testing, advertising ideation, and brand strategies. Then the tech companies entered the market research space, seemingly out of nowhere, offering DIY platforms to support quantitative research (e.g., surveys) and member database management. This triggered the term “community panel.”

“Community” implied members (no longer referred to as respondents) interact with the sponsoring company/research vendor and with each other for qualitative insight. Panel, a term most were familiar with given the mainstream of commercial access panels, implied a larger dedicated group of members to complete surveys. During the incubation period of online research communities, MROC, community, panel, and community panel were often used interchangeably, causing a lot of confusion.

If that was not enough, there are online brand communities that organizations build to help ensure competitive position, improve customer experience and retention, fuel innovation, and build brand advocacy. This type of community is very different than a research community.

What is surprising is the stickiness of the term MROC; it seems like MROC is to online research community as Kleenex is to tissue. It doesn’t matter if clients are only looking for qualitative research, surveys, or both, they gravitate to the MROC reference. However, the manner in which an online research community is designed, developed, and managed is quite different depending on the objectives. Therefore, it is critical to understand what a MROC is in the client’s mind.

For the record, this is Greenbook’s 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.”

While this is not a very “punchy” definition, is it easy to understand, which is so important given the volume of information we are exposed to these days. How clients choose to leverage their MROC to support business objectives is up to them, which speaks to the beauty of online research communities.


In The Market For a Used Electric Vehicle?

By Eric Roach, Research Director


Are you in the market for a new vehicle? Would you consider an electric vehicle (EV)? Furthermore, would you consider a used electric vehicle?

In recent months there have been numerous articles, blogs and press releases surrounding consumer interest around ‘used’ electric vehicles. Car owners are turning in their leased EVs back to dealerships en masse for the first time. The supply of used electric vehicles will only increase and this is a situation that neither dealerships nor consumers have experienced.

How do you best sell a used electric vehicle? Why would I want to purchase a used electric vehicle? Who will be the target market for these vehicles? These are the questions we are posing to our MyDrivingPower community members in our most recent engagement activity.

Two recent qualitative sessions confirmed that EV owners are passionate about their vehicles and “will never go back” to an internal combustion vehicle.   However, a used EV vehicle is not necessarily a route they would pursue.

While the current EV owners/lessees we spoke to did not necessarily see themselves in a used electric vehicle, they offered many opinions on what the manufacturers and dealers can do to help sell the used cars that are starting to hit the market.

A few of those suggestions are (in no particular order):

1) Educate dealership personnel – The dealership staff needs to be knowledgeable about the vehicles they are selling, and not rely on the consumers making the purchase. It was suggested that the sales staff actually drive the vehicles themselves to become familiar with the product.

2) Provide a warranty on the battery – A full warranty on the battery was suggested or some type of guarantee on expected range and replacement. The dealership needs to be transparent, proactive and up front concerning the battery for consumers to consider buying used.

3) Charge cycle indicator – Respondents see the need for an indicator that provides the number of times a battery has been charged to date. More confidence would come with knowing the total number of cycles on the life of the battery and the number of cells still remaining.

With less than 10% of the market (May Omnibus data) willing to even consider a used electric vehicle the next time they are in the market, manufacturers and dealers will need to up their game to sell the vehicles that are starting to populate dealership lots.

Contact me to learn more how the new and used EV market will evolve over time. It is something we will continue to follow in our MyDrivingPower online community.



Private Online Research Communities- Preparing for the $75 Billion Test

By Julie Vogel, Vice President

Retailers adopt innovative insight-gathering methods to keep a finger on the pulse of consumer sentiment and make on–the-fly adjustments as the season unfolds

With $75 billion in sales, the Back–to-School shopping season is the largest of the year for the U.S retailers (source). And those retailers who do their homework (a combination of optimal product mix, web presence, merchandising, advertising, store layout, promotions and staff training) will pass their exams and cash in big.

A well-studied retailer knows about their consumer; how they prepare to shop; the behind-the-scenes dynamics and emotions playing out in the family as school approaches; detailed descriptions and impressions of trips to multiple stores; and ongoing reactions to advertising and promotions, including feedback on proposed executions for the following season.

Just as the brightest crayon in the box dulls, best-laid marketing plans can fail. Consumers can be fashion-driven and externally influenced by economic, technology and  education industry specifically during the Back-to-School season.

Our retail clients are selling products because they know what their customers want to buy. One way they are learning more about what their customers want is by setting up their own private online research communities. These communities consist of surveys and discussions, special shopping assignments and online focus groups. The communities are embodied by an ecosystem of hundreds to thousands of shoppers willing to offer real feedback.

Feedback gives marketing teams the ability to curate products and branding strategies that the consumer has confirmed they want, aiding in-season performance analysis and plan execution adjustments. Retailers can anticipate and react accordingly to consumers’ shopping behavior in real time to maximize sales, building brands that become an integral and valuable part of shoppers’ lives.

Private, online research communities can help retailers maximize their profit from the first ring of the school bell.



Online Communities: A Powerful Media Relations Tool

By Jason Mantel, Vice President

A strong selling point for Market Research Online Communities is the ability to collect information quickly, sometimes instantaneously, from community members.  The theory goes that having members is exponentially more powerful than having respondents – members are engaged in your brand, eager to share, will be brutally honest in sharing the feedback your brand needs to hear. They are also available to you when you need them. Paper

As a primary market research firm, this is the line we use to promote MROCs.  Too often, though, these amazing tools are not leveraged for an amazing benefit: speed.

Morpace was contacted by Automotive News for thoughts on the electric vehicle market.  We host a MROC in this space, called My Driving Power.  The request came to our team at 4 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, and some of the questions were on topics where we had limited feedback.  Our first inclination was, “we’re missing that data!” And then suddenly, we remembered what we tell our clients – that MROCs generate fast results. (Really, it took time for this to sink in!) One of our analysts posted a few key questions immediately to our members.  And they didn’t let us down.

By 7 a.m. the next morning, we experienced a nearly 30% response rate, and robust results we could share with the publication.  We were able to answer specific questions, with statistically relevant figures, and pages of valuable comments, literally overnight.  I can’t recall another instance in my research career where that was possible, let alone with such a targeted audience.  (And many of our clients who host communities are yet to leverage their members for this type of benefit.)

I can imagine the value of this result in just about any corporate suite.  Even though I knew how it was supposed to work, I was simply amazed when it did.