Online communities are, in many ways, a best-in-class resource for fast, flexible access to actionable information about customers and consumers. If communities are well-designed – meaning they have the right group of people assembled to solve specific and relevant business challenges – they can be leveraged repeatedly to deliver value, economically and expediently.
But the question I repeatedly hear from our clients and their internal stakeholders is whether or not to consider findings coming out of communities as quantitative or qualitative. This is an understandable inquiry, albeit, in this day and age, a little beside the point. Philosophically, communities stem from the humanistic and qualitative research traditions. But their scale pushes them into the quantitative realm. So they truly are a flexible, hybrid research methodology that can serve both exploratory and confirmatory needs.
Over the years, we have developed a multitude of client solutions, helping companies and customers productively collaborate. A big part of that success has depended upon surfacing and exploring insights, as well as validating them, quickly and in ways that can be disseminated, internalized, and acted upon by our clients’ clients. We have also been intentionally agnostic about how we have employed specific methodologies.
In my latest paper, Moving at the Speed of Business, I provide examples of these methodologies and how clients have:
- Used quantitative methods to surface themes, reveal patterns, and get “underneath” self-reported observations to expose underlying motivations and emotional drivers.
- Nimbly and efficiently validated insights when that is required, including speedy feedback, optimization, and selection of winning concepts.
- Streamlined the product and concept development cycle, based on the strength of insights derived from qualitative methods.
For us, customer insights have never been about “qual” or “quant.” Rather, we aim to figure out the best way to generate the right kind of information to inform the problem or address the need at hand – then work with clients creatively to empathize, take action, and truly move at the speed of business.