It’s estimated that pet owners spent $350 million this year on Halloween costumes for their pets. Devoted dog lovers are treating Fido to physical therapy, dog yoga (“Doga”) and even red-carpet dog parties. The goal of keeping pets healthy while controlling the cost of vet bills has spawned a boom in the pet insurance industry as well.
These trends look familiar to us. We managed the 400-member “I Love My Dog” online community for Del Monte Foods, maker of Snausages and other popular dog brands. Del Monte used their private network to test product ideas and create buzz around new products and marketing campaigns. During the course of our research, we learned just how devoted dog owners are to providing their pets with the best quality food, toys, and accessories.
Online market research communities like this one “are often cheaper and more effective than phone surveys or traditional focus groups because companies can draw on the participants in a much broader and deeper way than they could in an offline setting” according to the Wall Street Journal‘s profile of the “I Love My Dog” community. “The rapid back-and-forth between the company and the online community can help substantially shorten the product-development cycle. It can typically take a year or more from the time a company comes up with a product idea until the item arrives in stores. For Snausages Breakfast Bites, that process took six months.”
For an ongoing community like “I Love My Dog”, incentives play an important part in keeping members engaged. The rewards don’t have to be big—coupons and gift cards are usually enough to encourage members to share their thoughts and opinions. Sometimes just the promise of having exclusive information or a sneak peek at a new product can keep them coming back.
We’re big supporters of online market research as a way to produce first-rate qualitative data. They can “help remove some of the guesswork for marketers, by letting brands know exactly to whom they are talking — and giving them more control over the discussions.”
Do you have questions about how we conduct online market research? Let us know in the comments or contact us.