Online insight communities: time to wake up the sleeping beauty

Move beyond one-off interactions and disconnected ad hoc projects; the true beauty of online insight communities lies in their longitudinal character.

Two people giving a high five
Two people giving a high five

Angie Deceuninck

12 July 2023

3 min read


60% of consumer insight leaders are using insight communities. Due to its growing popularity, communities are increasingly used to answer a broad range of research requests across the business. The R&D team comes with a question on sustainable packaging? Let’s check it in our community. The marketing department wants to know what product claim scores best? Let’s throw in a quick poll on the community. Or what about testing a range of new product features? Online communities are a great way to gather such quick and agile consumer feedback on tactical questions. But if you only use your community for an endless stream of (often disconnected) ad hoc projects, it’s not used to its full potential. You risk turning your community into a sleeping beauty.


The true beauty of communities: longitudinal research

The true beauty of communities – in comparison to traditional methods – is how they allow you to engage and collaborate with members over a longer period of time.


Longitudinal character of insight communities_v2


Harness your longitudinal relationship with members

Use the power of time. Online insights communities let you spend more time with your community members. Time which allows you to immerse into people’s lives and uncover hidden truths, habits, (unmet) needs and frictions. You can follow them, see how their behaviour and attitudes evolve, and by doing so, gather longitudinal learnings. ​For example, one of our confectionary clients launched a new product in China. We offered community members the product and observed them for 3 months – identifying how they were interacting with the product, what use cases and habits were shaping and ultimately tracking what people would do when they finished the product.

Another example is how young gamers helped BBC to co-design the game Nightfall. In the ‘Nightfall Hub’ online community, we engaged with 8-to-14-year-olds for a 12-week period. This allowed us to explore their gaming habits and the Nightfall user experience, but also to gather feedback on specific game aspects (over time). In comparison to previous research BBC conducted in a lab setting, the ‘Nightfall Hub’ allowed the brand to explore the game experience over time which is more in line with reality where gamers also gradually gain expertise.


BBC community_Nightfall


Implement iterative learning cycles

Surf the wave of tiny insights. By adopting a constant learning mindset – using the right insight at the right time – you get faster to your objectives. Philips embraces the practice of ‘Continuous Learning’ (CL) in its innovation processes with its always-on online community, the ‘My Living Square’, as backbone. The idea is that human understanding is at the heart of proposition development. CL leverages multiple learning loops with distinct objectives. It’s an ongoing cycle of observing, reflecting, and making. Since every learning loop is different, the versatility of the ‘My Living Square’ allows Philips to interact with people anytime, anywhere, anyhow. The community activities range from quantifying compliance barriers and optimizing UX to video tasks where parents interview their kids on what excites them about new concepts. The CL approach enables the Philips teams to build on their successes and learn from their failures along the way. Another example is how Bloomingdale’s connected with millennials in a seven-month iterative collaboration to keep a finger on the pulse while developing its new beauty mall counter. The iterative way of working provided Bloomingdale’s with the right insight at the right time; from insight generation and getting in-depth understanding of consumer expectations when shopping for beauty products to the optimization of different concepts, and finally ongoing optimizations of the shopping experience via offline store visits.  This iterative collaboration resulted in the launch of the Glowhaus boutique, providing a vastly different experience than the traditional department store beauty counters.

Are you ready to wake up your sleeping beauty? Revive your community and tap into the power of longitudinal relationships and iterative learning cycles.


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