Getting closer to your consumers in 2021

Jack Lee, Head of Online Communities, Harris Interactive UK and Cara Edwards, Sr. Digital Solutions, NA, Toluna

1. Why is it important to stay close to your consumers during these unpredictable times?

Staying close to your consumers helps you understand them better, so you can make better-informed decisions to provide them with products and services that better fits their needs. This greater engagement also strengthens your brand’s relationship with its audience/customers, helping build deeper connections and brand loyalty, and ultimately driving increased sales.

Amidst the Covid-19 crisis that has engulfed 2020,the need to maintain consumer closeness is greater than ever. With the huge impact the pandemic has had on our everyday life, the consumer landscape is nothing like what it was 12 months ago.  Online grocery deliveries have been struggling under the weight of huge demand. Restaurants have had adapt to expand takeaway services and socially distanced tables. Gyms are offering more online classes than ever.

Consumer needs and behaviours are changing rapidly and unpredictably, often due to factors outside of their control such as lockdowns. Despite positive news of vaccines, Covid is likely to impact the consumer landscape for some time to come. Due to this continued uncertainty, you need to be aware of what consumers are thinking and how they are behaving in-the-moment. This helps you understand how to stay relevant with them and pivot your business successfully for the year ahead and beyond.

2. How can an insight community help with consumer closeness closeness?

Insight communities provide a digital environment where you can quickly speak to your consumers and strengthen your brand’s relationship with them. You can go beyond your typical one-way conversation you get in ad-hoc research, where you are asking your customers for feedback. With communities, you also provide feedback to your consumers on how their opinions have been helping shape the decisions you’ve been making. This two-way dialogue is far more effective at relationship building.

Communities can also facilitate a wide range of conversations, such as through discussions, live chats, depth interviews, polls or surveys, and this variety helps keep things interesting for the consumers on the community.  Furthermore, this means more ways to understand your consumers. You can for example, use the community for (but not limited to):

  • tracking fast-changing consumer sentiments and behaviours, as well as better understanding trends in your market/brand landscape
  • finding out how and why brand perceptions have shifted
  • pre-testing to ensure communications, advertising and messages are in tune with what is going on
  • tracking fast-changing consumer sentiments and behaviours, as well as better understanding trends in your market/brand landscape
  • developing opportunities in new markets and territories in response to changes
  • identifying unmet consumer needs, to turn into ideas for further development for consumer-driven ideas for products & services
  • optimising customer journeys, concepts or packaging
  • building richer, deeper profiles of your customers, through iterative feedback utilizing a combination of quant and qual, and by combining feedback with demographics, attitudinal, behavioural and transactional data – with the ability to track how these profiles change over time

You can use these insights to make proactive, informed actions, that will ultimately help build a more positive consumer experience; such as refining messaging in your consumer communications so that they are sensitive to the current crisis, addressing pain points in the purchasing journey in your website or creating new consumer segments for more relevant, targeted marketing.

3. I want to get closer to my consumers, but I don’t have the time/money…

Whilst there is initial investment required in setting up and recruiting for your own community, with sufficient research volumes, the initial investment is offset by research cost savings. We frequently see clients executing 2-3 times more research in a year. You do not need to pay for sample costs each time, as your relevant audiences are already pre-recruited on your community, ready for you to use. This readily available pool also means greater agility – you’ll be able to speak to your customers much faster than having to find them through panel providers, or having to wait for lists pulled from your CRM team.

To build a successful community it does require some changes to your day-to-day tasks. However, we frequently take on a lot of this workload which does make this transition easier for our clients. We are seeing a lot more clients in recent months wanting to take on the smaller DIY projects to get answers back more quickly, but still wanting the full-service best practice advice to ensure credible and actionable results for those key projects. There are also additional benefits of communities that come with an end-to-end platform like ours, such as being able to centralise all your research on the community platform for easier access, leading to better efficiency and greater democratisation of insights across your business.

4. I already have a community. Do you have any advice on how can I maximise consumer engagement on my community?

There are number of elements to look at when maximising community engagement. It is important to have a clearly defined engagement plan and schedule; one that balances the optimal frequency and variety of relevant activities for the members alongside meeting your research needs. You should ensure you’re building and maintaining a positive two-way relationship with members, giving them regular feedback into actions you’ve taken as a result of their feedback, and setting crystal clear expectations from them on what to expect from the community and its activities.

Having a rewards system that encourages contributions is another key aspect of engagement – monthly prize draws for gift vouchers are the most common form of rewards on a community, although there are many ways you can reward members without spending a penny. You could select and recognise a ‘member of the month’ who has provided particularly valuable contributions, or create ‘VIP’ members who can access sneak peek content on the community before anyone else. We have worked on communities before where the client would invite these ‘super-engaged’ members to come into the client’s offices to be part of a co-creation session, as well as recording a video about their experiences of products, to treat them as an extension of the brand team and help bring the insights to life for stakeholders.

Ultimately, an engaged community is one where the members are enthusiastic and interested to participate in its activities. Addressing the points above helps achieve this, although every community and its membership is different, and you may have your own unique considerations and challenges around engaging your audiences. We’ve barely touched the surface; please click here for a more in-depth consultation.

Stay safe!