Mercedes Benz uses online research communities

Still running focus groups? How very 20th century. An increasing number of organizations have moved consumer research online. Major brands including Godiva, ABC Studios, InterContinental Hotels, and Kodak, are conducting both qualitative and quantitative research digitally in private online communities. Sometimes, these initiatives extend offline as well, but the web is the core of the initiative.

The company is leveraging two online communities: Generation Benz, launched in 2008 and comprised of Gen Y consumers; and Mercedes Benz Advisors, a community of 1,795 baby boomers.

In two years Mercedes has been running the invitation-only program, they've rolled out 156 polls, 179 surveys, 262 discussions, live chats with company executives, have invited participants to 32 live events, recruited some 25 members as mystery shoppers, and more. One member was offered the opportunity to test drive a GLK. He posted a glowingly positive video review to YouTube.