Think Harder...to grow your business and your brand
Our thoughts following the Future of Consumer Intelligence Conference last week in LA
We recently attended the Future of Consumer Intelligence Conference where the emerging role of decision science was explored, as well as the convergence of technology, social & marketing sciences and the humanization of data. It was shown that combining together insights, foresights, social science, marketing science and intelligence with technology has never been more critical for brands.
Technology can act as a central driving force as well as a profound connector, helping brands to connect the dots and act strategically. In fact, technology is changing not only how we do things, but also how we understand the world, business, and people. The event strived to push people to think outside of traditional research methods and, explore new and alternative technologies that take advantage of the speed of social business.
Although the conference had a number of great takeaways, we were acutely aware that a lot of the resounding stories in which a brand created a profound change utilizing a new technology involved online communities. This pattern isn’t just happenstance, it’s proven. According to Greenbook’s GRIT study, MROC’s are ranked as one of the most important new tools for research.
Major brands are reaping the benefits of using alternative technologies like MROCs to break outside of traditional research and form relationships of value with consumers. We heard stories from HSN, Rachel Zoe, and Toyota on just how impactful online communitites have been in driving change within their organization, improving the customer experience, building brand loyalty and much more.
Here are just a few of our takeways:
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Rachel Zoe Inc.’s Community Manager, Jaclyn Decell, challenged listeners to take cues from their customers and fans to organically uncover what content resontates with them—and to use that insight to create emotional connections with their customers. They formed a community called Zoe Insiders where members were asked to share content and insights in exchange for exclusive acces to the Rachel Zoe world and other inspiring perks. The community allows for Rachel Zoe Inc. to not only test messaging, but to also gather invaluable user generated content. Decell said that by this time next year, she believed all brands would have user generated content (USG) on their sites and would be leveraging social engagement to drive consumers to their sites. We absolutely agree. It’s in part why the technology team at Passenger is continuing to push the envelope to introduce social sharing and mobile engagement tools to our community clients.
According to Courtnie Hallendy, of Toyota Financial Services, listening to customers can drive change in your organization. Toyota created an online community that was able to recommend impactful change for the organization. They created a dynamic environment where their dealers were encouraged to speak with each other and to problem solve. Members were offered exclusive content, planned for the future, collaborated on product design and worked to improve the customer experience. The result was an increase in market share, increase in customer satisfaction, new product design ideas, service level changes and optimization of current product configurations. We’ve found that auto manafactures can be hesitant to engage customers in the product development process, citing long production cycles and engineering challenges. But Toyota (along with some of our clients) have consistently proved customer engagement can really accelrate decision-making and drive positive change in corporate culture.
Research and branding can work together
Elizabeth Merrick of HSN explained that they think of market research as an opportunity to engage their customers in a customized, tailored way that can act as another touch point of the overall customer experience. Herrick said, “We are no longer researchers but brand facilitators. We want our core customers to participate and contribute to our brand, not just consume it.” HSN has been able to create a highly engaged community where members receive exclusive non-monetary incentives, resulting in strengthened research, increased brand identity, and improvement in the overall customer experience.
To keep up with the rapidly changing always-on environment, market researchers must find new ways to make sense of today’s connected consumers. In our connected and digitized world, brands are increasingly using online communities to create platforms for innovation and creative ideas. Many of these online communities can alter the way we see and understand the world and inspire genuine innovation.
Interested in how you can take advantage of an online community like these brands have to improve your customer experience and brand loyalty, foster innovation, and grow market share? Give us a shout—we’d be happy to share our ideas about community with you.