What Is an MROC?

MROC Explained

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Market research online communities (MROC) are closed groups of people who are gathered into online communities for market research. Companies assemble these respondents to find out information that helps them drive business strategy.

Learn more about MROCs and how they work.

What Is an MROC?

A market research online community is a market research tool that assembles groups of stakeholders online and queries them to find actionable insights.

Companies or market research service providers use MROCs to perform qualitative research, which is the collection of non-numerical data such as opinions. They perform this research in a private online platform, then use the results to help the business improve.

  • Alternate name: insight community

How Does an MROC Work?

MROCs help companies understand the mindset of their target market. Therefore, who they include in their research is an important factor when building an MROC.

To form a market research online community, potential members are screened based on specific criteria determined in advance by the research team. Those who pass the screening are assembled into an online group, such as in a private forum or discussion group. Members might be stakeholders such as customers of a brand, or they may have particular demographic characteristics.

Once the community is composed, companies can send surveys to these MROCs or engage them in moderated discussions, and the answers are recorded and analyzed by researchers or analysts. Respondents can also answer quick, short polls, share insights and contribute ideas, too.

The online nature of these communities reduces geographic barriers and logistical constraints, allowing for faster responses and quicker insights than traditional, in-person methods.

However, it can be tough to maintain engagement, requiring periodic recruitment to replace members who have dropped out.

To encourage participation in an MROC, some companies provide incentives such as raffle entries or use a gamification strategy to spur engagement.

MROCs may be ongoing, convening people for long-term projects, or they may be ad hoc, in which instant communities are assembled for short-term projects and then disbanded when the objectives are met.

For example, a clothing company might invite loyal customers to become part of their market research online community by offering a drawing for a gift card. After a screening, the selected respondents become part of the brand's community, where they are offered opportunities to fill out surveys and participate in online forums with other members. And they may, based on their self-reported characteristics, be asked to give their opinion on a particular offering for the upcoming season, such as men's sweaters. All interactions take place in the company's closed online community platform, making it easy for respondents to answer questions whenever it's convenient for them.

Ongoing, branded MROCs

Ongoing MROCs are designed for long-term study, usually taking place over months. These communities are excellent platforms for short-notice responses to specific survey questions, particularly for issues that suddenly pop up, since the group is already formed. They also function well for brand-building and crowdsourcing innovation. 

With a particular target market as their focus, branded MROCs (communities organized around customers of a particular brand) can be used by market researchers to learn more about consumer attitudes, sentiments, and interests. A typical approach would be a stream-of-consciousness project (where customers' thoughts and opinions are recorded on an ongoing basis) that is only manageable with a specific and constant target market.

Survey data derived from an MROC is qualitative data, not quantitative data. It's easy for non-researchers to mistake survey data as quantitative (or numbers-based) because ]responses are often reported through the use of numbered scales.

An ongoing, branded MROC can be effectively used to collect longitudinal data (data repeatedly collected over time) that requires a continuous stream of inputs. For this type of effort to be effectively maintained, an organization or company would need to be able to invest in dedicated staff who can oversee the fidelity of community management.

Full-scale, branded MROCs can be expensive to create and maintain. 

Ad hoc MROCs

Short-term MROCs tend to be fun and active forums with diverse participants. Since the screening process is typically quick and not rigorous, members may have much in common. And owing to their quick and easy setup, ad hoc MROCs also tend to be cost-effective. 

The type of research objectives that do well with instant MROCs includes concept testing, useability questions, and open-ended reactions to a limited set of stimuli. Also, a primary criterion of the research objectives is that they are not complicated and that they would lend themselves to traditional research methods if cost and time were not issues.

Key Takeaways

  • An MROC is a market research online community, also known as an insights community.
  • MROCs can be long-term or ad hoc, depending on the organization's research objectives.
  • These online communities are formed to gather qualitative research data which is then used to drive business strategy.