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This is the first part of our Blog Series, Value of Insight Communities. Read part two on Measuring ROI & Key Performance Impact, part three on Insights at the Speed of Your Business, and part four on Increasing the Value of Your Insight Team.

Also, read the whitepaper and view the on-demand webinar featuring client stories including: Banana Republic, NASCAR, VEVO and Dean Clinic.

There is no better way to grow a business than to invest in frequently understanding your customer and there is no better ROI in MR than a branded insight community. There I have said it and I am not ashamed to admit it!

I am tired of the inward looking discussions about why MR and market research professionals are not valued more by business and want to clearly present my case.

As MD of Vision Critical in Australia and NZ, the majority of my time is spent talking to marketing and MR professions about their businesses and trying to work out how we can help. Are clients looking for world leading software, amazing consulting skills or member engagement expertise? Well the answer of course is yes but what users of BI and consumer intelligence are looking for is actually a way to connect with the customers more easily, more cost effectively and faster than ever before. One of the key reasons they want to do this is because the way of doing business has changed, probably forever.

Compared to when I was last purchasing MR as a marketer in the late 90's there is definitely less appetite for risk, significantly more pressure on budgets to do more with less, and an expectation that answers to complex questions can be answered in minutes not months.

There is an acknowledgement that two way customer community is not only required but it's a necessity and that service and product flexibility are table stakes.

Luckily, technology has finally caught up with market research and the best use of technology in research is in the space of online insight communities. In my experience, the creation and management of online insight communities can move market research from being an expensive, slow and complicated back room application to being front and center; creating and then managing a direct line of communication between the business and customers in real time. Knowledge is built collaboratively and iteratively which results in fresher insights generation, accelerated innovation and improved brand advocacy.

I said something similar to this in a 2009 ESOMAR presentation in China, and, more than 3 years on, I have had the opportunity to work with over 40 leading brands throughout Asia Pacific and Europe in the establishment of their online insight communities.

Every brand has a different use and reason for building an insight community; however, the results I have witnessed have been staggering and include:

  • A CPG company in Australia conducted 50+ research studies on their insight community, with a conservative estimated value of $1m. As they shared the work with Vision Critical, this cost them less than $250,000.
  • A large Australian company uses the community to recruit face to face qualitative research and face to face meetings with their CEO (for closer customer connection).
  • A CPG client uses their community to conduct in home product tests with customers at a tenth of the cost of traditional recruitment.
  • Our clients use their community to understand changes over time so they don't have to guess the impact of their product suite; they see it by interacting with the same people.
  • Online forums replace sense check focus groups in half the time and five times the geographic coverage.
  • Clients access the community to quickly answer the queries that always come out of the quarterly tracking presentation at no additional cost.
  • Qualitative results add context to segment portraits established in market studies.
  • Media companies do over 250 short ad tests per annum for the annual cost of an assisted serve community ($80,000) with their own team managing it and creating norms.
  • CPG companies conduct in-store shopper studies using their communities and don't have to constantly pay the cost of external sample. They simply can do twice the amount of studies so more categories or more planograms get a chance to be evaluated.

Despite all of this, I think the most impressive change I have witnessed is how an insight community allows clients to connect with customers more often which means more issues and more new products can now receive some form of consumer lens prior to decisions being made.

Don't believe people who say that asking customers what they think is a waste of time. These people simply have not discovered the power of a well-managed, branded, insight community.

To read our best practice series on the Value of Insight Communities, visit our resource page.

How to Use an Insight Community to Improve Customer Experience

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Peter Harris

Peter Harris helps brands build authentic customer relationships through technology. Pioneering customer intelligence since 2010, Peter Harris has led Vision Critical Asia Pacific to become the largest customer intelligence software provider, supporting over 140 customer-led brands, in Asia Pacific such as Telstra, Adobe and Cathay Pacific. With deep roots in research and strategy, Peter has championed the future of research and technology across his leadership roles at prominent research organisations, including AMSRS, APRC and GRBN.
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