A Short- or Long-Term Market Research Community: Which is Best for Me?

Published 10 Feb 2016 | Updated 09 Feb 2021 3 minute read

Online qual
Research communities

Let’s take the simple decision first. Do you want to run a panel or a research community? Let's quickly run through the differences....

1. A panel gathers quantitative data. A large group of individual ‘respondents' make themselves available on an on-going basis to answer surveys – giving their time in return for cash or prizes.

There’s no two-way dialogue in a panel: so, the information you glean will tend to be numerical answers to straightforward questions. It’s a great way to find out things like:

  • how often people do a particular activity
  • how much of a product people buy per week
  • which category of activities people like engaging with

2. A research community gathers qualitative data. Participants gather for discussion and to respond to research questions for a designated period of time,

There’s the opportunity for agile, two-way dialogue and to ask rich, open-ended questions that uncover complex insights into why people behave as they do and what might entice them to change or modify those behaviours. It’s a great way to find out things like:

  • how people feel about a particular issue; activity or product
  • why they feel that way
  • what really influences their behaviours and attitudes

If you just can’t decide which approach would be best for your objectives, read our blog Research Communities 101 to find out more.

Short or Long-Term Research Community: Which is best for me?

There are both short-term communities and long-term research communities, and each has something valuable to offer. The main differences are:

  • Length. Short-term communities are usually defined as anything up to three months, while long-term communities may last anything up to as long as a year or more.
  • Number of participants. The longer your community is running for, the more people you want involved.
  • Your objectives. What are you hoping to get out of the research community. Short-term communities are great for uncovering answers to a single issue or looking into a discrete topic of interest; while a long0term community can dig into a number of questions or can look at how a particular issue changes over time.

Factors to Consider

  • Budget. You need to be honest with yourself about what you can realistically do with the budget you’re working with. And it’s not just about the money either. A long-term community requires a major investment of time and energy.

    So, you need to be certain that you have those resources in place if you want to take that route. On the flip side, remember that the time constraints of a short-term community can create added pressure to accomplish more in less time. This could potentially be just as much of a drain on your resources, just in a more concentrated period of time.
  • Participant engagement. You also have to consider whether it’s actually possible to compress the research into a shorter period of time, and then whether your participants can be incentivized accordingly. Three months or less might not seem as strenuous to them at the outset, but if they are expected to commit large chunks of their time on a regular basis to tasks, there is the risk of burn-out.

    Long-term research communities might seem more daunting to them at the beginning, but could allow you to space out tasks to avoid overwhelming participants. In that case, though, you need to be careful about maintaining interest so that participants remain engaged over time and don’t drop off.
  • The alternative option. If you’re struggling to decide between the long and the short term options, there is a useful alternative: the multiple short-term approach. This means breaking your research down into a number of short-term projects, each focused on gathering insights on a targeted topic.

    The beauty of this approach is that you can be agile about using the information you gather to frame the next project. It also means you’re less likely to run into the issues of participant drop-out.

Readying for Your Market Research Community

Once you and the research team have decided whether a short-term or long-term research community is the better fit given the objectives and budget available, you will need to get started on the recruitment and planning process.

Decide what kind of software you’re going to use, as that will have a big impact on its success. Will it generate easy-to-access participation reports? Does it send out auto-reminders for activities? Is it engaging enough to be a must-visit destination for participants?

Carefully plan the tasks and activities for the participants. And, when briefing stakeholders, researchers and suppliers, always be clear about exactly what the needs and objectives are.

With good preparation and a clear vision in place, your community – whether short or long-term – can provide a wealth of valuable qualitative research.

Research communities have become an incredibly useful tool in market research bringing participants together and building relationships to generate deeper insight.

If you are new to communities or just can’t decide which approach would be best for your objectives, read our blog Research Communities 101 to find out more.

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