Online communities are key for brands looking for deeper insights

Online communities are key for brands looking for deeper insights

By Ruth Ruigu

If you think online communities are just for personal use, think again. Communities that straddle the digital landscape through myriad social networks are extremely beneficial to businesses and the society in general. They are the power behind the context that enables exploration of real people in real life to gain in-depth understanding of needs, drivers, and motivations for key audience segments, brands, or categories. 

Online communities are also the minefields of consumer-driven insights that businesses can use to guide early or late-stage innovation initiatives for products and services in consumer-packaged goods, retail, tech, finance, healthcare and more. The netizens are also key in assessing and optimizing new products, concepts, campaigns, and omnichannel touch points along the consumer journey.

For a country like Kenya, where there have been rapid developments in the digital landscape, the power of the online communities if well exploited can help in understanding of society, markets and people through qualitative insights that bring life to life.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) estimates that as of December 31, 2021, the number of active mobile (SIM) subscriptions was 65.08 million while the total number of mobile phone devices connected to mobile networks was 59.58 million, out of which 33.06 million were feature phones and 26.51 million smartphones. The penetration levels of feature phones and smartphones stood at 67.9% and 54.5% respectively.

During the same period the CAK Sector Statistics Report Q2 2021/22 also shows that the data/internet and broadband subscriptions stood at 46.35 million and 29.15 million, respectively. 

This phenomenal development witnessed in the country’s information, communication and technology landscape has been attributed to the active role played by online communities’ netizens in socio-political and economic debates that are shaping the country’s fortunes.

Only those that are not alive to the influence of the online communities may want to draw a line between them and real people. They are in various platforms especially social media forums. These social networks, just like the people who belong to them, are however very important in helping brands get closer to consumers to build insights, drive innovation and gain influence by engaging with on-tap audiences around the globe who are eager to make an impact.

A case in point is a latest study by Ipsos Kenya, Pulse on Kenyans and COVID-19, which shows Kenyans have become more aware of their budgeting and have been pushed to seek financial stability in case of future crises.

The study conducted among online communities in February reveals 54% of Kenyans are planning to spend less post-pandemic, 15% the same while 31% will spend more. It also shows a strong uptick on purchase of hygienic and cleaning products, an increase in purchase of essential foods and a decrease in non-essential food such as confectionaries.

The need to budget and save money has also led to changes in the types of purchases with many buying in smaller quantities, cheaper brands and a shift towards local and homemade products.

Another study to learn from is the Top 100 Most Loved Brands By Women in Kenya 2022, which provides deep insights into what is worrying Kenyan women the most, how they are interacting with products and services, and the issues they feel elected officials should deal with as we ease out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key findings of the study include increased alcoholic beverage consumption; slight increases in purchasers or influencers of alcoholic beverages; women are also spending more on and using cosmetic and beauty products while there is a slight decrease in purchase of home cleaning products. It also reveals that 45% of women in Kenya claim to interact with the e-commerce category, 44% of women own a smartphone for their personal use while 52% of women in Kenya claim to interact with the solar products category.

At the global level a survey conducted among online communities by Ipsos for the World Economic Forum finds that, even though most consumers across the world expect their purchasing power to be impacted by rising energy prices, few blame climate change policies for it. The survey finds a consensus in all 30 countries surveyed around the importance of moving away from fossil fuels. 

It also shows that while on average 55% say price hikes will have a fair amount, or a great deal of impact on their purchasing power, expectations vary widely across countries. The study was conducted between February 18 and March 4, 2022, on Ipsos’s Global Advisor online survey platform.

These are great insights generated from online communities which can be used to address critical issues impacting businesses and the society every day.

Using the very latest in online technology – including live chats, video focus groups, and interactive surveys and discussions – one can turn static, linear research into an immersive experience for audiences of all shapes and sizes. 

At Ipsos, online communities are a proven engagement approach focused on intrinsic motivation, fostering a truly social environment for powerful, in-depth insights and discovery. Combined with rigorous research methods, best-in-class community management, and unparalleled sector expertise, Ipsos delivers true engagement at scale to address challenges affecting the society.

What businesses and governments need more in this digital age; is how they can forge alliances with online communities to boost their marketing efforts. 

By engaging online communities through research, businesses and organisations can get closure to the real people and get a deeper understanding of their target markets. This will help them make better, bolder decisions that positively impact brands, consumers, and societies every day.   

The writer is Ipsos Service Line Lead for Understanding Unlimited (UU)

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