Q. Do you believe that the market research industry can keep pace with brands’ needs in digital co-creation?
Richard Bates: The development of communities has opened up a fantastic opportunity for businesses to open up and talk to and work with consumers. The industry has focused on developing the platforms and developing the consumer engagement and has fallen behind in terms of the types of research activities that those agencies are able to conduct via the platform.
Q. What do you use communities for?
Richard Bates: Often when we are launching new products. As we launch new smartphones for example, we ‘seed’ products with our community to understand consumer reaction to those products and the user experience in more depth.
We test creative with them too and get feedback for marketing campaigns. We have tested some of our activities around CSR with consumers to understand where we can add value to society more broadly and which of the initiatives we are looking at would have more value. We often test customer service propositions as well.
Q. What challenges are you faced with in using this method for research?
Richard Bates: The main challenge I have is that I don’t have enough communities or enough capacity on the community because everyone [in the business] wants to use it. We have demonstrated that it’s a valuable tool for listening and understanding what consumers are thinking in a rapid way: we have been using it for almost two years now and key stakeholders have bought into it, so my main challenge is bandwidth.
Q. Is it difficult, therefore, not to exhaust an existing community?
Richard Bates: You have to be careful with the community because you have to manage their engagement. You have duty of care, otherwise as a resource it becomes overused and its value can ultimately decline. You have to keep it healthy.