Customer Inside: A Practitioners Guide to Online Communities

C Space partnered with the Market Research Society (MRS) and 130 client side practitioners to explore & understand how to get the most out of online communities (and the agencies that run them)

Online research has experienced explosive growth in the last decade – and online insight communities have gone from unproven experiments to accepted mainstay.

Today it’s hard to find a C-suite perspective that doesn’t point to the need for customer centricity; to hardwire the customer into the heart of business decision making. The most progressive and innovative business leaders seem to agree that the future of brands exists in co-creating incredible experiences – involving customers as equals and partners rather than just observing them as subjects or targets.

Yet despite this consensus on the customer, many businesses are still struggling. It’s becoming more difficult to combine an intelligent use of data with an in-depth emotional understanding of customers and translate that into timely action, at scale.

Twenty years ago, when we were pioneering online communities the landscape was unrecognisable from today. Back then insight was simply a way for a business to validate its own ideas and hypotheses. Nowadays, the tool itself is only a part of the solution – and uncovering rapid customer insight is only a part of the challenge.

Almost every business is looking to maximize the ROI of their community and hardwire customers into their companies in innovative, engaging and impactful ways, to create meaningful business change.

We’re proud to have partnered with the MRS, the world’s leading research association – and over 130 industry professionals working across insight, marketing and innovation functions in a broad range of categories and sectors, to produce this report. In it, we paint a picture of the current community landscape, share best practices, as well as common pitfalls. We recommend steps you can take to avoid these pitfalls and offer some future areas of opportunity too.

We also share some of the trickier challenges many of our clients have been grappling with and examples of how they are overcoming them, in order to turn challenges into opportunities.

We believe companies should see online communities not just as a tool or a new way of doing existing types of research – but as an opportunity to change the ways they engage; to create something more authentic, more useful and more impactful. An opportunity to bring the customer, and customer insight, inside a business in an unprecedented way.