Latest methods for online market research

Arthur Fletcher, Fellow of the UK Market Research Society
Arthur Fletcher, Fellow of the UK Market Research Society

Arthur Fletcher, Fellow of the UK Market Research Society, discusses the latest methods for online market research. The goal is minimal researcher influence, maximum insight. Could an Insight Nation provide you with more relevant and useful knowledge than traditional focus groups?

An Insight Nation is a group of people who share a common territory and a common purpose, who collaborate by sharing knowledge and experience and who provide a level of insight which enhances and expands current understanding.

OK, but exactly what is an Insight Nation and why would you want to build one?

At first glance, an Insight Nation may look very similar to a market research online community (MROC) – it utilises an online research platform, participants are recruited to take part based on relevant profile criteria and it runs over a period of time – from days to weeks or months.  The key difference is that an Insight Nation seeks to engage the participants so that they are a collective force for insight generation rather than just a group of people engaged in the same activity.

The online environment allows the Nation Builder to conduct a wide range of research activities with the participants: forums, chat rooms, focus groups, polls, diaries, surveys etc. and every Insight Nation is a purposeful blend of activities.  Not only will the research issue be investigated from several different perspectives but it doesn’t make much sense to invest in the recruitment and screening of participants if all you ask them to do is fill in a diary!

Reaching critical mass

Most importantly, getting the participants to take part together in a variety of tasks bonds them, relaxes them and gets them talking to each other.  Once the community reaches ‘critical mass’ – where members are talking to each other rather than just responding to the researcher’s questions – this is where the Insight Nation begins.

I believe that one of the things that gets in the way of gaining market insight is us, the researchers.  Our interrogative approach has never been a true reflection of the way people live their lives and share their views.

Natural opinion sharing for maximum insight

People talk with friends, family and colleagues informally, using their own language at their own pace in their own time and we, as researchers, should attune to this if we are to find out what people really think.

Modern technology has enabled us to create online research environments – communities – which encourage this informal, natural sharing of opinions, allowing the researcher to observe, understand and derive insight.

Building Insight Nations has to be the goal of research for the future – minimal researcher influence, maximum insight.  It requires researchers to develop an appropriate set of skills – hands off, trusting, listening, adapting, creating – based on the sound principles of face-to-face research but tuned to the online environment.

Productively engaging with audiences

Insight Nations allow us to engage with audiences, to get to know them and really understand them, to gain insight in a way which is both difficult and expensive to achieve with traditional methods.  Insight Nations transform the online community from a low cost inferior alternative to face-to-face research into a more productive and insightful process which is more rewarding for researcher, participant and client.


Arthur Fletcher FMRS
Tel: +44 1366 502099
Mob: +44 7785 396504

Latest methods for online market research