Running Research Communities in Asian markets

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  • 1. Online Research Communities (MROCs) are the new star in market research. These online platforms connect a company with a group of interested and interesting consumers to collaborate with them in qualitative research projects. With the rise of social media, Asian consumers are ready, more than ever, to co-create the future of brands and products/services. Are Asian companies ready for it as well? This paper shares tips, illustrated with cases, on how to successfully collaborate with consumers in Asian markets. What to expect?
  • 2. Many brands are looking at the Asian markets for growth opportunities. According to Bloomberg, five of the top ten emerging economies lie in Asia. China, Indonesia and India are leading the pack. It is the rising middle class in these regions that creates business opportunities. Consumer spending in a country such as Indonesia, for example, is already close to the levels in developed economies (McKinsey Quarterly, 2013). With these fast economic developments, Internet adoption rates are increasing rapidly. Today, no less than 45% of Internet users live in Asia (Internet World Stats, 2013). When it comes to social media, Asia continues to be of significant interest to marketers, brands and anyone with an interest in social trends around the globe. Asian consumers are ready for co-creation Our Social Media Around the World Study (InSites Consulting, 2011) shows that in Asia, six out of ten social media users are connected with brands and 90% of them want to help brands in co-creation activities. So, not only do consumers want to connect with brands, they also want to collaborate with them. 30% of these people prefer to collaborate via a closed online community. These developments offer great opportunities for online market research, such as Online Research Communities (MROCs) or Consumer Consulting Boards, as we prefer to call them.
  • 3. Online Research Communities: types and applications When positioning Online Research Communities or Consumer Consulting Boards in the social media research space, we should distinguish them from the ‘natural communities’ and ‘social networks’ where content and conversations self-generate between consumers. Researchers can tap into these for knowledge via ‘social media netnography’ methods such as social media listening, scraping and ethnographical, qualitative observation. Online Research Communities assemble consumers purposefully through consumers who wish to engage and co-create with brands. Communities are ‘invitation only’ and with a marketing and research motivation. These private research communities focus on a specific product category, brand or customer segment. Online Research Communities allow marketers to observe, facilitate and join conversations between consumers. Consumers enjoy this more participatory research approach and the interaction re-introduces the social context often missing from other research approaches that conceive the consumer as subordinate and approach them in a top-down isolated fashion.
  • 4. ongoing), intensity of moderation (longer-lasting communities are less intense or community panels are even just a form of access panels), direction of conversations and the number of research techniques used (ranging from synchronous online discussion groups to surveys, diary blogs and one-on-one interviews).Table 1 In terms of taxonomy, several labels and definitions for research communities are used in practice these days, which may lead to some confusion - some may even debate whether all of the labels classify as real communities. The labels range from online research communities over Market Research Online Communities (MROCs) to bulletin boards, blogs, community panels, etc. (see Table 1). What they do all share is that they are all some sort of asynchronous discussion platform but they vary in terms of duration (short term and ad hoc to
  • 5. When we compare research communities to the traditional qualitative methods such as a focus group, it is the long-term, asynchronous connection that creates interesting benefits. Where focus groups only give a snapshot of reality, research communities enable participants to think and rethink over time, beyond one’s first reaction. In order to identify the key benefits of this relatively new method, we use a simple but very useful framework. This framework enables to check the method effectiveness on three levels: ‘automational’, ‘informational’ and ‘transformational’ benefits (Day 1994; Grover et al. 1996; Mooney et al. 1996). 1. 2. 3. Communities may bring automational effects because, for example, communities allow to quickly tap into a sample of consumers on a specific topic that presents itself, which makes getting the answer to a specific question more efficient. The informational value emerges from the fact that the inherent quality of consumer understanding we get is of better quality. Consumer input is multimedia, embedded in people’s lives’ context as well as more reflected and reasoned. Transformational outcomes of research communities lay in the fact that research communities allow participants to perform tasks which were previously not possible without the asynchronous technology and engagement over time. We are now able to follow people over a longer period of time and co-create products or services with them from start to end.
  • 6. As mentioned online research communities can vary in terms of duration and intensity. But when do you need a short- term community and when a long-term one? As is often the case in research it depends on the management and the marketers’ and businesses’ research objectives. Research communities can be used throughout the marketing mix for understanding, developing, implementing or optimizing marketing offers (see Figure 1). For consumer insights, communities are used at the fuzzy front end of product innovation or for consumer immersion. In a development marketing phase new value propositions are developed for product concepts, brands or activation campaigns. Implementation communities are organized when products or services are about to be launched and need testing in the market, e.g. for beta testing or in-home user tests. Finally research communities can be used for gathering feedback on customer experience and satisfaction processes.Figure 1.
  • 7. In situations where managers have one very specific goal, a short- term community will often suffice to satisfy the research needs. The fact of the matter is that for running a successful community one needs a show or a screenplay to keep the engagement with and between all stakeholders. Concretely, with only one very specific management goal, it is hard to keep up momentum and activity. If on the other hand managers have a combined need or want to have a continued finger on the pulse with their target group over the longer term, ongoing communities are more suited. In other words, the number of underlying management objectives directly determine the activity plan of a community.
  • 8. The status of Online Research Communities today There is still some level of friction between the ability and the desire to conduct research communities in our industry. The status of online research communities today is comparable to teenagers and their first sexual experience. Everyone says they are doing it, everyone wants to do it… but in the end no one really knows how to do it well. This situation is reflected in the Greenbook Research Industry Trends 2013. 45% of researchers indicate having plans to use online communities in the future (ranking 1st out of 17 emerging technologies), while 40% of clients claim the lack of knowledge is still a limitation for them (GRIT 2013). Hence, there is a need for an overview and some concrete tips on how to run online research communities - and specifically on how to run them in Asia.
  • 9. It is not about technology Often the focus these days lies on technology and tools while the common ground that should be shared by real communities is engagement. Unlike Internet access panels, participants in a research community talk to each other as well as to researchers and marketers. Consumers exchange ideas in their own consumer language and raise questions and answers which researchers sometimes did not even ask. In other words, the social context and interaction is important and provide a holistic understanding. However, this can only be achieved by creating an engagement at different levels. First, there is a need for natural engagement which implies that consumers have to identify with the topic or the brand under investigation. A second form of engagement that is required is method engagement. This implies that researchers should ask questions in a fun and challenging way to increase participation and quality of input (e.g. gamification, infotainment, challenges). Finally, research communities need to create impact engagement and impact at the client management side.
  • 10. Engaging with participants - natural and method engagement Many practitioners focus on the absolute number of people they connect with in research communities. While important, we argue that sample size is subordinate. What is really important is the number of interactions per discussion thread which can only be created through engagement with consumers. Setting up an online research community is technically easy, but in order to make interactions useful and effective, researchers need adequate processes for (Schillewaert et al. 2011):
  • 11. Natural engagement 1. Purposeful sampling. Researchers are advised to create natural engagement by sampling brand fans or consumers who show an interest in the topic when recruiting for online research communities. True, these consumers are “biased”, but at least they reflect an illustrative consumer reality and generate in-depth discussions. 2. Small is beautiful - better short and intense. Depending on the research objective, research communities can last a few weeks or months or be ongoing, they can have 50 or several hundreds of participants; it depends. But one needs to be aware that longer and larger communities need higher engagement and require more resources. Lurking can increase with too many participants or an over-whelming number of posts. A paradox? Not really. When participants see too much information they disconnect because they are convinced their opinion has already been voiced and will add less or no value.
  • 12. Method engagement 1. Adapt the context and environment to the target group. For example, let participants choose colors and the name of the community or put topics and questions on the discussion agenda. Foresee a social corner (next to the actual discussion space) where participants can interact ‘off-topic’. If required, moderators should guide participants this social corner. That is when a community is for and by members. 2. Build the community. Once participants are screened and recruited, ‘kick-off’ sessions are important to build engagement on both a social and an informational level. Such sessions discuss the research agenda and objectives, the client is introduced and the participants become acquainted. If not naturally present, engagement has to be created via the research methods used: 3. Moderators should develop the C factor - the “C” of Community manager. Good moderators have good writing skills, are creative and apply “social medial” in human interaction. Moderators need to be aware that community discussions can last too long and moderators need to pay attention to steering interaction. There is an important role for researchers and community moderators in building identification with the community, keeping up the engagement with the topic to keep the discussion going while not letting members over-socialize and drift away from the researcher’s agenda. Too strong social relations among members of a research community can be counterproductive as they lead to irrelevant conversations.
  • 13. 4. Engage as many stakeholders as possible. Engaging members of the marketing team, senior management or a well-known expert from the industry or academia to participate in the discussion spurs activity levels tremendously. 5. What we ‘do’ to people is as important as what we ‘ask’ them. Give participants tasks to perform and play games with them which generate insights. We can make people generate information for us by introducing more fun elements and creativity. In his book 0 (2008), Dr Medina posits that we often ignore how the brain works and so do we, researchers. If we were to apply some of his 12 rules as to how researchers can generate information, we could get more productive. As an example, there are five rules that are particularly relevant for market research: 1) ‘exercise boosts brain power’ (rule #1); 2) ‘we do not pay attention to boring things’ (rule #4); 3) ‘stimulate more of the senses’ (rule #9); 4) ‘vision trumps all other senses’ (rule #10) and ‘we are powerful and natural explorers’ (rule #12). In doing so, researchers play on the engagement and brand relation of participants. Allow participants to do what they like, surprise them with something special and check out their reaction.
  • 14. Engaging with internal stakeholders - impact engagement If we are completely honest, a lot of the research that is commissioned does not have the necessary impact. Unfortunately, research has commoditized as clients search for ‘more and cheaper’, not true transformation or added value. Still, the core of market research should be to bring the voice and ideas of consumers inside organizations all the way up into the boardroom. Because of their very nature, online research communities facilitate this, however researchers need to work at creating internal engagement and changing management. Market research studies are not only about formal presentations, knowledge management and communication programs. The informal ‘corridor talk’ is an equally powerful way to have managers use and share intelligence. The most powerful way is when research is a conversation starter and generates lively stories about customers. This can be done in three stages.
  • 15. 1. Engage the internal audience via positive disruption. Create a friction in terms of contrasting management knowledge with actual market situations via e.g. games and quizzes with managers. Let executives participate in a consumer quiz to learn about consumer findings. By answering questions about consumers, they receive social status (e.g. a badge), reach different game levels and unlock extra information when progressing - at least something worth talking about. 2. Inspire executives by allowing them to observe, facilitate and even join the consumer conversations in the community. Allow executives to participate in the community. 3. Activate managers to increase their usage of market research studies in their daily job by means of using creative and inspiring sessions and organize internal news streams and infotainment (e.g. via Twitter updates, newsletters, infographics, mood boards). By creating internal engagement, the executives’knowledge will increase, they will converse about the study at the water cooler and will continue to observe consumers beyond the mere report (De Ruyck et al., 2011).
  • 16. Three tips for running MROCs in Asia In the past few years, we have run a lot of global and local communities in Asian countries such as South Korea, Malaysia, China, Japan and India. These communities were powered by global brands in Fast Moving Consumer Goods - Unilever, Heinz, AB Inbev and Heineken - and brands active in the durables category - Philips, IKEA and Quinny. Based on these cases, we have identified three tips for running successful communities in Asia.
  • 17. By default, we conduct these studies in the local language. Meta-research on our communities has taught us that members participate best if they can write in their own language. Taking part in an English-speaking community for a non- native speaker can be hard. It has a rather negative influence on the intensity of participation and the level of detail and nuance when one is talking. That is why it is preferred to conduct communities in the native language of the participant. For a global project to evaluate the IKEA catalogue, for example, we conducted five local communities in, among other countries, China. All moderators for these local communities were trained community managers and part of our Global Community Moderator Network. Local communities by default While being in local contact with participants through a local moderator, you still grasp the advantages of having a central/global project team and content overview when ‘connecting the dots’ on a global level. Figure 2. IKEA @home community
  • 18. That being said, there can be good reasons to opt for a global English-speaking community: non-native executives of the company who want to follow the discussion, limited budgets or the fact that one is in search of global consensus on a given subject rather than an understanding of local differences. An example of the latter is our global ‘Shape It’ community for ketchup giant Heinz. The goal of this project was to come up with a new and uniform design for the shape of the next generation ketchup bottle. Participants in more than 10 countries, a.o. China and Japan, took part in the same community to reach global consensus. Figure 3. Heinz Shape It community Local communities by default
  • 19. When designing your community, it is important to take into account the technological differences within the Asian markets. For example, when we look at Indonesia, the Internet population is mostly mobile (est. 55%). In the scenario of mobile- only communities, we need to work in a more task- based framework and ask more questions that can be answered in a short and convenient way. Wisely rethinking the mix of research tools and adapting them to the small screen is a must. In order to facilitate the community members at best, the technology needs to fit the daily routines of the target group. For example, we launched a global community for the stroller manufacturer Quinny. The goal of the community was to immerse with 120 ‘urban parents’ for three weeks and to explore their daily routines when moving around in the city (one of the Asian cities in the study was Kuala Lumpur). Facilitate Asian consumers to participate anytime, anywhere In order to capture their experiences on the go, we enabled the parents to share as much contextual and personal information of their environment as possible through a dual screen mobile community application. ‘Dual screen’ refers to the parallel usage of desktop and mobile connection. The ‘dual screen’ community solution enabled members to also perform ‘offline’ tasks, such as sharing the parents’ hotspots of the city, spotting new trends and sharing opportunities for the brand, in the heat of the moment. This dual application resulted in 2,900 posts, including 433 photos, generated by 60% of the participants, 22% of whom actually used the mobile app. This result shows that this solution has given us the richness of an ethnographic study and the depth of several consecutive focus groups.
  • 20. Now that we know that mobile is important for collaborating with consumers in Asia, the next question we need to tackle is how to use it. Based on in-depth analysis of the Quinny case study, we have identified three learnings for approaching mobile communities (Willems et al, 2013): 1. Stimulate recurring visits by several challenges a day. A mobile app increases community engagement. Community analytics show that mobile users login 2.3 times more and view 1.4 more pages compared to the non- mobile members. They make 65% more contributions, meaning that they are more engaged with the community. In order to keep their attention, community managers need to stimulate recurrent mobile visits and offer relatively more challenges on a daily basis compared to desktop-only usage. Facilitate Asian consumers to participate anytime, anywhere
  • 21. 2. Design challenges requesting multi-media feedback. The mobile application generates more visual feedback. While mobile/dual users contribute 1.65 more posts, they only use half the number of words compared to desktop-only users (47 vs. 87 words). One might expect that the reason for the short wording is because of a speedy contribution and a smaller screen. We observed however that the wordings are replaced by a different, more visual contribution such as a photo or video (6.2 photos by mobile-dual users vs. 2.6 photos by desktop-only users). These results imply that mobile communities need to include a lot more yet shorter challenges requiring multi-media feedback. Facilitate Asian consumers to participate anytime, anywhere
  • 22. 3. Launch challenges targeted at contextual and personal situations. The mobile contributions have had a major impact on the richness. While mobile generated only 41% of the total number of photos, the relevancy of those visuals is much higher; of all tagged photos, the researcher allocated 52% of the tags to photos generated by mobile. This shows that the mobile component is of crucial importance to fully understand the contextual and personal situation of the user group and to uncover richer insights. Facilitate Asian consumers to participate anytime, anywhere
  • 23. Next to technology, the native moderator also helps us adapt the framework of conversations. A different culture also means different attitudes and values, leading to a different way of reacting to questions, tasks and challenges. When comparing the Asian countries to the European and American ones, we learned that the Asian community members tend to perform better in feedback exercises instead of in co-creative tasks. They are less used to taking initiative compared to European and American participants. Adapt the framework of conversations: more group challenges generating feedback instead of individual co-creative exercises Also, these community members are more comfortable talking about the group instead of sharing a lot of details about themselves and their lives. One of the main techniques that fits this culture is what we call the ‘co- researcher’ technique.
  • 24. This technique was used in a recent study we conducted for Philips, where we set up a three- week insight-shaping community about sleeping problems with 50 Chinese consumers. To account for the sensitivity of this medical topic, we invited 10 of our participants as co-researchers to deepen our research conclusions and help identify the underlying values. After our analyses of the community outtakes, these participants were presented our findings and asked to challenge them. In performing the task of co-analyses, these participants were asked to explain our initial conclusions from the Chinese cultural perspective, to illustrate our findings with their own personal examples and also to go beyond our first impressions. By means of qualitative coding of co-researcher discussions, we found Adapt the framework of conversations: more group challenges generating feedback instead of individual co-creative exercises that in 14% of the co-researchers’ posts, the conclusions were challenged (nuanced or rejected). This means that every one out of seven posts includes new information that helps fine-tune our conclusion. For example, the meaning and importance of well-being was challenged by our co-researchers. Where our conclusion initially was that Chinese consumers value well-being, it’s more about being healthy in order to work hard, earn more money and ultimately improve life status. Working this way with co-researchers created truly unique insights that were key for Philips to find the right positioning in the Chinese market. We, as researchers and marketers, would never have uncovered these insights from an online distance (Schillewaert et al, 2012).
  • 25. Adapt the framework of conversations: more group challenges generating feedback instead of individual co-creative exercises The case of Philips shows how co-researchers help us validate and improve our hypotheses from a cultural perspective. Next to helping us understand the Asian culture, co- researchers also help us compare the Asian cultures to the West and capture the global overview in a multi-country study. We recently ran an MROC study in 18 different countries, three of which were in Asia, for three weeks, for a multi-national Fast Moving Consumer Goods company. Referring to our first tip in this article, all 18 countries had their own community “Chinese just want to earn money to Improve living standards. Health is absolutely of their concern, but the well-being is not, because they are not aware of that.” - By Cuihua, co-researcher of the Sleep Well community platform and local native moderators, allowing all participants to express themselves in their local language. After three weeks, we opened up an extra discussion room and invited all members who could express themselves in English. In this room, we asked the members to become co- researchers and challenge the conclusions on themes that were thought to unite all countries. Five cross-country findings were launched in the global room. Three of these statements were confirmed on a global level whereas the other two were countered and therefore need to be adapted on a local level. In this context, co-researchers can help the researcher to compare Asia with other parts of the world and find the global overview more rapidly and more easily.
  • 26. The future is now While a research community method is already mainstream in the West, the method is still in its infancy in the East. The interest in this flexible way of working however is increasing rapidly. The fast adoption rates of smartphones, the increase of Wi-Fi and the improved access to local Internet cafés enable consumers to participate in online and mobile-enabled communities. The time is now to start collaborating structurally with your consumers. Let’s explore this new method and discover fresh insights!
  • 27. McKinsey Quarterly 2013. Retrieved from http://csi.mckinsey.com/Home/Knowledge_by_region/Global/Finding_profits_and_growth_in_emergi ng_markets.aspx Bloomberg 2013. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/slideshow/2013-01-30/the-top-20- emerging-markets.html Internet World Stats (2013). Retrieved from http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm Day, G. (1994). The capabilities of market driven organizations. Journal of Marketing, 58, 4 (October), pp. 37-52. Grover, V., Teng, J., Segars, A.H. & Fiedler, K. (1998). The influence of information technology diffusion and business process change on perceived productivity: the IS executive’s perspective. Information and Management, 34, 3, pp. 141-159. Mooney, J.G., Gurbaxani, V. & Kraemer, K.L. (1996). A process oriented framework for assessing the business value of information technology. The DATABASE for Advances in Information Systems, 27, 2, pp. 68-81. Greenbook Research Industry Trend Report (2013). Retrieved from http://www.greenbook.org/grit
  • 28. De Ruyck, T., Knoops, S., Schillewaert, N., Coenen, G. and S. Rodrigues (2011), Engage, Inspire, Act, ESOMAR Congress, Amsterdam. Schillewaert, N., De Ruyck, T., Ludwig. S. and M. Mann (2011), The Darkside to Crowdsourcing in Online Research Communities, CASRO Journal, pp. 5 - 9, http://issuu.com/casro/docs/casro-2011_journal Schillewaert, N., De Ruyck, T., Troch, T. & Wijngaarden, J. van, 2012. When information is hard to get creating positive feedback loops through engagement in online research communities. Retrieved from http://www.greenbookblog.org/2012/07/02/when-information-is- hard-to-get-creating-positive-feedback-loops-throughengagement- in-online-research- communities/ Van Belleghem, S., De Ruyck, T. & Thijs, D. (2012) Social Media Around The World. InSites Consulting Publication. Willems, A., Schillewaert, N. & De Ruyck, T. (2013). Always-on Research. InSites Consulting Publication. Willems, A., Koningen, M., De Ruyck, T., 2013, Mobilizing Urban Parents Around the World. How Quinny leveraged Universal Insights for global branding and innovation. InSites Consulting Publication.
  • 29. Tom De Ruyck Managing Partner & Head of Consumer Consulting Boards InSites Consulting Anouk Willems Research Innovation Manager InSites Consulting Erica Van Lieven Founder & Managing Director Direction First, Australia
  • 30. www.insites-consulting.com Thank you! @InSites marketing@insites-consulting.com www.facebook.com/insitesconsulting www.slideshare.net/InSitesConsulting