SMXpert (1)

Ipsos Social Media Exchange

From Empathy to Innovation


As market researchers we intrinsically understand the importance of involving consumers in the innovation process. But how are online communities uniquely suited to do this, and how do we leverage communities to build consumer understanding and feedback into multiple points within this process?

We spoke with Ipsos SMX Vice President, Christie Moorman, on the differentiated approach that online communities offer, and how we work with brands to connect and co-create with consumers more deeply and efficiently.

Q: First let’s talk about client needs and objectives. What types of trends are you noticing in the innovation space in regards to market research?

A:  We are seeing a desire to connect with consumers earlier in the process to truly co-create ideas and products with them.  Consumers can provide so much inspiration for product developers, by telling their stories, and through images and video.  Empathy is a very important contributor to innovation because we need to intuitively understand consumers and their needs to develop products that deliver emotionally and functionally against those needs.

Q: What benefits do online communities offer in the innovation process that other types of research may not?

Christie Moorman Headshot

Christie Moorman
Vice President, Ipsos SMX

A: Online communities are great because we create focused environments to engage a group of members about a series of topics we want to learn about.   Market Research online communities aren’t that different from other types of communities.  Like social networks, they are about people joined by a common interest, connecting and sharing with each other. Through that platform we are able to discover the emotions that lead to purchasing decisions, something that many traditional (quant) based methodologies just can’t deliver on.

Another important factor that resonates within innovation is the speed and availability of the insights. Unlike traditional research methods, an online community can be utilized any time of the day, any day of the week. We keep our community members highly engaged so that whenever information is needed from them, we have a large, representative sample ready to participate.

Q: How does Ipsos SMX drive participation and engagement in online communities?

A: Over the years our team has developed a pretty solid set of rules to engaging consumers from working with countless clients and millions of their community members. Of those rules, one of the most important is empathy. Getting consumers to engage requires us to appeal to their self-interest.  Providing a clear value proposition, putting ourselves in their shoes, and asking what is going to motivate them? I think this is what truly differentiates us from other research companies, knowing that it is so much more than just rewards or compensation, but truly taking the time to build a relationship with them and keeping their experience within the community enjoyable.

Q: What steps do we take to truly understand the consumer?

A: It’s all about connecting. First we identify their unmet needs. Then we identify which problems the need is solving. Finally we create a discussion whereupon they identify what frustration or delight the brand brings them. This isn’t as simple as a three step process, but those are the essential frameworks we build upon.

Q: Can you provide an example of some of the innovation work we’ve done that especially stands out to you?

A: We had a client (brand) that was planning to enter a new category and in several global markets; some of them developing markets.  They were in the early stages of developing a new product form for this category and they already had prototypes. There was clearly an opportunity to bring the consumer voice to this process.  We recommended a 2-month Pop-Up Community, focused on understanding consumers, but also the local market and products.  Weekly, we posed different topics to members, covering their product reviews, what delighted or frustrated them with current products, their unmet needs, etc.

Q: Sounds great, but how did you get the community members to answer all those questions for two months?

A: Definitely by focusing on keeping it fun and personal! We actually asked them to take us shopping with them, snapping photos or recording video so we could see the local shelf and how they navigate it.  They also shared videos of their homes, so we could get a better understanding of their life.

Q: Now time for a fun question: If you could have been involved in the innovation process for any product throughout history, what would it be?

A: The portable media player.  I would have loved to be involved in developing a truly new-to-the-world product that eventually transformed the music industry and the way people enjoy music in their everyday lives.

Thanks for the great interview Christie!

To learn more about how to leverage communities in the innovation process, contact Christie at or download a case study HERE