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Insight Blog

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The Importance of Reciprocity in Participant Engagement

Have you ever rung someone and you could hear them, but they couldn’t hear you? How did you feel? Disappointed? Frustrated or surprised maybe, that the other side couldn’t participate in the conversation? Did you try to ring again in hope that this time you will be able to have ‘normal’ conversation?

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A two-way conversation should be a natural part of market research; but, there are brands who forgo their side of the conversation for the sake of conserving time, money, and effort, which harms future research.

Asking participants for feedback is a conversation between the brand and the customer. A conversation where both sides have an opportunity to share their thoughts and to ask questions. Very frequently however, market research is not run in this way, where both sides of the conversation are getting an equal amount of satisfaction from the other. The brand asks a lot of questions, participants answer them, and often that is that; nothing else happens. Whether it is a survey or a discussion within a focus group, participants often don’t find out what the overall findings are, how the brand will use the information they collected or what decisions the brand will make based on the study. So, in a way, participants have that a one-way conversation with the brand I mentioned earlier, where they can’t hear the brand on the other side.

Does it matter though? Is it important to go back to participants once they shared their feedback and tell them a bit about what it has helped with?

Benefits of Reciprocity

The short answer is yes. It is one of the best ways of recognising participants’ efforts and is one of the most effective aspects to increase engagement. It lets participants know that they have been heard, that their feedback matters and has been taken on-board. This reciprocity propels further engagement with the brand, by making participants feel more involved and have a real impact on the formation/evolution of the brand, which can therefore positively influence their overall opinion about the brand. The importance of this positive opinion cannot be overstated, as it is becoming more and more obvious that the opinion of one customer has an immense influence on the opinions of all the others.

Going back to participants and sharing a brand’s actions on their data requires precious time and resource, but it is worth making an effort, especially if:

  • The research relates to business areas such as product development/testing or other subjects where studies divided into phases would create the best insight. Sharing information on what is being changed and why will ensure participants stay engaged throughout phases and are willing to review each iteration in detail.
  • Your organisation does a lot of market research studies – engaging participants in your brand by sharing updates on how the research has been used will make recruitment for any future projects much easier. This will come in particularly useful when a project requires a niche sample or a fast turn-around.
  • You’re tight on budget – incentives are of course one of the most obvious drivers for participants to get involved in research, but it is not the only one. Having their opinions heard is also one of the top motivators to sign up to a research experience and having confirmation that their opinions are being used to fuel change is another; so let participants know they have been heard and tap into that motivator as much as possible, so that you can reduce your spend on incentives in the future.

How to Engage Effectively?

After focussing on the benefits of reciprocity, one question remains - How do businesses do it? How do you update participants on the studies they have taken part in? Well, you have at least three options:

  1. You can involve your marketing team – sharing feedback can become part of your marketing messages, which will not only engage those who took part in the study, but also those who didn’t. Simply knowing that you have asked customers to take part in meaningful and impactful research and are now sharing with them the effect that it has had on the product/service or the brand itself, will start influencing perception of your entire customer base; the secondary result of this will be that more of your customer-base will look to take part in the next research experience, meaning that the sample of willing participants will be bigger next time around.
  1. Ask your internal insight team to follow up with everyone who has been involved in the study. A quick internal update to the insight team on how you used the research is all they will need to create a compelling follow-up email, newsletter, infographic, of video update detailing the impacts and changes made to those who took part.
    1. Set up an online community – keep a conversation with your customers completely open and communicate with them on regular basis about variety of topics and initiatives you’re working on. For example, this channel could through a forum thread which allows the participants to quickly and easily find the trail of impacts and changes whenever they please, or through a series of blog posts by the moderator of the online community. Keep this channel widely available for your customers to suggest topics for discussions – you will be surprised how much detail and how many valuable insights this will generate.
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Reciprocity is a very simple concept that yields significant positive impacts; If participants know the impact they're having on the business, then they know their contribution was acknowledged and valuable.

Going Forward

Reciprocity is definitely something worth thinking about and incorporating into you next research project. It’s one of those little extra touches that can have significant impact on the quality of your research and perception of the brand. Most importantly, it is a relatively simple action for the business to take that by far has more benefits than it does drawbacks.

What is your experience in this? Have you shared with participants how you used their feedback? Share your thoughts with me below.

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Dr Dorota Crockford

Written by Dr Dorota Crockford

Dr Crockford is a scientist and mathematical genius who has established herself well in the market research industry. She is responsible for the skills and work of our research teams, and strategically plans research processes around client needs to ensure we deliver the maximum possible value. You can follow Dr Crockford on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Topics: Community Panel, Market Research, Customer Experience