FEATURE13 October 2020

A sense of community

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Online research communities offer businesses a means of getting closer to their customers, generating insight and validating research findings – but they can also foster connection and empathy in uncertain times. Bronwen Morgan reports.

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23 March 2020 is a date that few British adults will forget. It was the day when, after weeks of uncertainty, the prime minister instructed us to stay in our homes to slow the spread of Covid-19.

For many, this was the point at which the threat of the pandemic suddenly became real on a human level. The business world had already been deeply impacted, however; most offices had closed, international travel was heavily restricted, and revenue was hanging in the balance. The future looked uncertain, and especially so for qualitative researchers, for whom travel and face-to-face meetings are lifeblood.

The restriction on reaching people came at a time when businesses, arguably, needed insight more than ever. How were customers feeling in these extraordinary times? What support did they need? How should businesses respond? The situation was unprecedented – there was no business model from which to work.

According to Graeme Lawrence, managing partner at InSites Consulting (online community specialist Join the Dots ...