OPINION27 May 2022

The right connection

Opinion Trends

It’s never been so crucial for brands to connect with consumers – and to do that effectively, they need to send relevant messaging, as Toluna’s Paul Hambly explains.

Consumer pressing satisfaction buttons to rate a brand, ranging from bad and acceptable to good

During times of great uncertainty, people change their behaviours constantly. Consequently, brands are expected to shift their priorities and strategies in order to engage with them. By tapping into consumer sentiment, global brands can do just that. It helps them understand what customers are thinking and how they’re behaving in real time – and they can then use those insights to make informed decisions about products and services.

To gain these insights, though, brands must partner with a provider that offers the kind of cutting-edge technologies and processes needed to deliver fast and accurate research. And these providers must cultivate an engaged, inclusive, global consumer community to provide relevant data that enables brands to measure their thoughts and actions. After all, these details heavily influence how brands choose to position themselves moving forward.

And these participants don’t just influence; they inspire by using their voices to create positive, impactful change. As brands and businesses increasingly seek to understand shifting buying preferences and behaviours, consumer opinions and beliefs become all the more important. That means it’s imperative for research businesses to create meaningful, long-term engagement with panellists if they hope to deliver exceptional results for customers.

How can a consumer insights provider achieve this holy grail? Many factors impact a panellist’s experience, enthusiasm, and willingness to stick around, and these factors change as often as consumer sentiment. It’s our responsibility to identify what keeps them motivated and employ a user-centric approach to engagement. We call this ‘lifecycle digital marketing’. From the initial marketing message enticing the consumer to join the panel and onward through the consumer journey, it’s critical to keep panellists feeling valued and engaged.

Long-term engagement does not happen overnight. There are several driving forces necessary to ensure your panel remains true to its purpose of providing community members with an outlet to share their opinions and creating connection to keep them engaged.

Acquisition: A key priority is to recruit the highest quality panellists possible. After all, premium respondents are key to gathering premium insights. Therefore, it’s important to leverage premium traffic sources to aid in the recruitment of high-quality, diverse, profiled panellists through touchpoints across all digital marketing channels.

Engagement: To foster and cultivate long-term engagement, it’s important to ensure your community remains a unique destination – not just a journey to a survey wall. You need three pillars of engagement to make that happen:

Communication: You should aim to interact with your panellists through a variety of channels. Whether it’s onsite and mobile push notifications, email, SMS, or social media, it’s vital to send the right message to the right person at the right time and through the right digital channel. This ensures a personalised and relevant experience for every member.

Initiatives: One social initiative we created at Toluna was during the Amazon forest fires, when the world was painfully aware of the necessity to care for our planet. That’s why we started the #PlantYourFuture campaign and promoted it across our community with the goal of raising awareness about global warming and planting trees in Brazil to help with reforestation efforts.

Gamification: Games are a powerful tool to fuel interaction, entertain, and reward. They help increase appeal and motivate panellists to increase session time, productivity, and the frequency of returning visits.

Recognition and support: Bespoke engagement initiatives are crucial to developing long-term engagement, but they’re powerless if members don’t feel properly recognised for their efforts. That’s why you should consider offering a range of rewards to panel members and tailor them to meet the varying interests of different audiences for instant recognition.

Recognition doesn’t have to be purely financial, either. Whenever possible, share the results with panellists who have participated; this shows them that brands are taking actions based on their opinions and feedback, and gives them an opportunity to see how their opinions compare to others. It creates a sense of empowerment that encourages them to return time and time again.

Brands need providers that create added value for their panellists to keep them engaged, and in turn, provide those brands with the real-time insights they need to be successful. The intelligence garnered from a high-quality, demographically and geographically diverse community is what can help to ‘disrupt’ the market research industry in the best way possible. By focusing on long-term engagement, you can empower both your panellists and your clients.

Paul Hambly is senior vice-president of global panels and supply at Toluna.