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As the senior manager of market research at Hyundai Motor America, I’ve seen firsthand the impact an engaged online community can have on a company’s product and marketing strategy.

Apparently, I’m not the only one. Fifty-nine percent of market researchers now use online communities to get  consumer feedback and insight, according to the 2016 edition of the GreenBook Research Industry Trends report. An additional 23 percent are considering launching an online community, making this space one of the fastest growing methods in market research.

But getting the most out of online communities requires a strategic approach. It’s about keeping members invested in your success by creating an environment where both the company and your customers get value from the experience. Ultimately, it’s about prioritizing the member experience.

If, like many customer-led companies, you already use communities, boosting engagement shouldn’t be an afterthought. Here are five ways we foster authentic engagement at Hyundai—and how you can do the same.

1. Make customer relationships a company-wide priority

When we started using online communities in 2008, we reached out to many of our internal stakeholders to get buy-in. We did a lot of lunch and learns, for instance, to educate decision makers on how they could integrate customer intelligence into their everyday use.

Collaboration with other teams paid off. Today, listening to car owners is a part of Hyundai’s DNA. That’s in large part due to Hyundai Listens, our online community of 5,000 consumers who own a Hyundai vehicle. Different departments know that if they need a pulse on how Hyundai owners think and feel, they can tap into our insight community to get new ideas or to validate their assumptions. Our insight community comes up naturally in conversations because people have realized its value.

Today, listening to car owners is a part of Hyundai’s DNA...Everyone in the company—from executives to product developers and market researchers—understand the importance of hearing from Hyundai owners.

Everyone in the company—from executives to product developers and market researchers—understand the importance of hearing from Hyundai owners. In fact, one of the most engaging things we’ve done in our insight community is to use a video featuring one of our business leaders welcoming people in the community. For us, being owner-centric starts from the top.

2. Respect people’s time

We benefit from customer input in many aspects of our business. For instance, we ask our insight community for feedback on vehicle development, service strategy and even marketing direction.

A big reason why members love to participate in our community is because they know we’ll never spam them with unnecessary activities. We don’t ask members to do surveys or discussions that don’t have a specific business need. We only serve up activities that answer a specific question that will impact business decision-making. By respecting our members’ time, we’re able to keep our response rates up and, more importantly, our members happy.

3. Leverage instant gratification

We’re living in an age of instant feedback and gratification. Researchers should tap into that.

One way of doing this is to reveal how other community members think and feel. In our insight community, for instance, we make it a best practice to use an instant feedback question feature that shows a real-time update on the results. That might seem like a small thing, but it’s a quick win. Members can see whether a majority of Hyundai owners share their opinion, for instance. Instantly sharing stats and feedback to your members is a fun way of keeping them involved in your activities.

4. Keep your portal engaging

Your portal is a jumping point to other activities in your insight community. Having a thoughtfully designed community portal is important. We update our portal frequently, making sure that the content is never stale. We integrate several of our social media feeds in our portal to help members keep up with what’s happening in our company.

Create a real sense of community by putting the spotlight on your members. For example, each month we select a member to feature and write a personalized story about them. If we have prize winners, we also make sure they’re highlighted in our portal. Community members love learning about other members.

5. Make it a two-way conversation

Your customers are more likely to participate in your community if they know that their participation has a real impact on your business. Show members that their time and input matters. For us, that means communicating frequently with Hyundai owners to show our appreciation. We value their input, and we want them to know that.

In our newsletters, for example, we provide an update on recent activities in our insight communities. We also share news about our brand and tell our members how their feedback helped influence product and marketing decisions at Hyundai.

Customer engagement can drive business results

We value and cherish Hyundai owners in our insight community. They enable us to make customer-led decisions, giving us the input we need to improve our products, build our brands and create memorable marketing campaigns.

By using an insight community for research, I know firsthand that fostering an authentic relationship with our customers creates a win-win situation. Decision-makers and researchers get the necessary insight to make better decisions, while our customers have a platform to influence the company in a meaningful way. This mutual value exchange makes online communities a powerful source of customer intelligence—and helps explain why more researchers like myself are adopting them today.

Check out Hyundai’s customer story for more info on how the company taps into customer insight to drive innovation and marketing effectiveness.

The enterprise guide to online communities

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