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4 Benefits of Using an Online Research Community

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Online Research Community

The business world is growing very rapidly and becoming competitive day after day. With so many businesses offering the same products and services, it has become a challenge to attract customers and let them see the value they get if they make the decision to choose you. Technological innovation has played a huge part in ensuring that businesses have something to work with when it comes to understanding key things about their audience. 

With the help of online community platforms, a business can easily do research, collect data, and analyze this data. In this article, I am going to highlight the importance of online research community platforms and the benefit they offer to businesses around the world. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into it so that you can take your business to the heights of success. 

  1. Bring People Together 

The very first and the biggest benefit of an online research community platform is that it provides you with an ideal place to bring different people together. It doesn’t matter what kind of industry you belong to or what kind of a business you are running; you can easily use such platforms to connect with your customers.

The platform lets you get insight into what they want and expect from you so that you are able to transform your business accordingly. It goes a long way in making sure that the people who are using your products and services are actually satisfied with what you are offering them, and they feel as if they contribute to your business in a positive way. 

  1. Create Brand Ambassadors 

Another benefit of online engagement platforms is that you can use them to create a following for your business. A platform lets you engage with your customers on a daily basis, which allows you to let them be a part of your VIP community where you share important information about your future plans. 

These VIP customers act as brand ambassadors and create a positive word about your products and services so that everyone in their circle knows what you are offering. It is a great way to advertise your business without spending a lot of money on it. 

  1. Increase Your Reach 

One of the most important parts of running a business is making sure that you consistently make new customers while keeping the old ones happy. Engaging with your existing customers in a positive way helps other people see that you truly care for your audience and want to keep them happy. 

Engaging with your customers on these platforms and sharing important information about your business is going to improve your brand recognition and customer loyalty. By developing a good relationship with your customers, you promote other people to connect with you, which ends up going a long way in improving your overall reach. 

  1. Understand Customer’s Behavior 

Last but not least, I can’t stress the importance of tapping into your customer’s mind and finding out what he really wants. Your customer’s buying pattern and behavior are going to give you an insight regarding what kind of products he likes. You can use this information to create better products and drive better marketing campaigns that have better success. 

An online research platform not only allows you to connect with your customers but also lets you dig deep into how he is feeling. You can ask important questions regarding his experience and get feedback from him to improve your business. It is a great way to understand his motivations and desires and then use this information to market your products in a better way. 

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Guest Post

3 ways Gamification will Revolutionize your Business

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Gamification in business

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated employee engagement levels. A recent Gallup study shows that employee engagement had increased from 36% in 2019 to 39% in 2020. There are various reasons behind this sudden jump, such as:

a. 45% of employees said they got feedback in 2020 compared to only 26% in 2019.

b. 38% of employees working from home were more engaged than 32% of those working on-site.

But the same study shows that 14% of employees are actively disengaged. Although the engaged to actively disengaged ratio had gone down from 2.7-to-1 in 2019 to 2.6-to-1 in 2020, companies need to identify the vacant spaces and fill them.

Gamification is an excellent strategy for increasing employee engagement levels to all-new higher levels. Many statistics show that employees who have fun at work are more productive and engaged and finish their work well before deadlines.

a. Research by Catapult shows that absenteeism costs UK businesses £554 per employee. Absenteeism can significantly decrease when employees have fun at work.

b. A survey sponsored by Alfresco shows that 65% of employees interact and collaborate with their colleagues multiple times a day. Thus, if employees enjoy time with their colleagues, they will work better and communicate more effectively.

c. According to a study by the University of Warwick, happier employees are 12%-20% more productive than those who are not.

These statistics prove why gamification is essential for your business. Now, let’s see three use cases of how gamification can revolutionize your business.

1. Make your training sessions compelling instead of grueling.

We all know how boring training sessions can get. I have participated in several L&D programs sponsored by the companies I have worked in. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that most people are either busy chit-chatting with their colleagues or sipping extra cups of free coffee. Thus, the primary purpose of training sessions is somewhere lost.

And, why do you think that happens?

People can give various explanations, but the primary reason is boredom.

Employees get bored of training sessions because there are no fun-filled activities to hold their interest.

This is where gamification comes in. Instead of after-session surveys or post-training tests, you can provide real-time polls to check what they have understood and what they have skipped.

And it has never been as easy as it’s today. You can ask the participants to install apps when they enter the L&D room, where they will take polls, surveys, and tests.

You can plan some group activities and hands-on sessions where learners move their hands and legs, as it has several therapeutic benefits. A mild physical activity will go a long way in helping participants to drop boredom.

2. Start a “boredom removal program” at your workplace.

Yes, you heard that right.

A “boredom removal program” is similar to a “pest removal program” frequently conducted by municipal corporations. Boredom is not very different from pests. The latter contaminates the external environment while the former infects our minds, but they function along the same lines.

Follow the steps below to cut of the roots of boredom in your company:

a. Arrange for face-to-face meetings (or online conferences if physical meetings aren’t possible) with managers and junior executives to find out reasons for boredom.

b. Avoid asking closed-ended questions that have simple “yes” or “no” answers. Instead, learn the technique of asking open-ended questions that brings emotions into the equation. You can better judge the employee’s psyche by understanding their feelings.

c. Gamify your interactions. Instead of reading out notes or displaying dull PowerPoint presentations, say what you want to say in the form of games. Online Games have a unique power to engross players for hours. Give puzzles, assign collaborative tasks, and do some physical exercises to suck the boredom. In short, allow the participants to think. Employees who think and come up with innovative solutions never get bored.

d. There is nothing else that gets people more excited than competitions. No matter how much you see, listen to, or talk about equality, people still like winning and watch others losing. Our brains have reward centers that activate when we win a competition. Moreover, our minds are hardwired to experience the thrill of winning over and over again. So, organize branch- or nation-wide competitions and you will be surprised to look at the results.

3. Gamification stimulates the ideas creation process.

Companies conduct pre-market release surveys and research to get an idea of how their products will perform in the market. Gamification can completely transform this process by augmenting our mental processes that dictate our ability to analyze, respond, and react in different situations. There are two ways of doing this: alternate reality games and live-action role-playing games (LARP). Let’s discuss them one by one.

In alternate reality games, the players remain as they are, but the reality around them changes. Jane McGonigal, a gamification expert, has developed a game called “World Without Oil” to show how companies can stimulate the ideas creation process. In the game, the participants become part of a world with an extreme oil shortage. The players receive reminders about the change in oil prices, notifications of oil shortages, and alerts about countries fighting over remaining oil reserves. Players constantly share insights about how the new changes in the world are impacting their lives. This data is collected and is used by different industries for long-term planning scenarios.

On the other hand, in LARP, players take on new roles but the reality around them may or may not change. A new role allows players to shed off traditional social norms and observe the world without predefined criteria and beliefs. For example, researchers at the University of California developed a game called Battlestar Galactica to study the impact of wearable devices.

In this game, the players act as the survivors of an alien attack on their home planet. They need to adjust to new communication patterns based on mental and physical health signals that originate from the clothes they wear. Through this game, researchers gain valuable insights into how wearable technology can positively change human interactions.

Conclusion

Companies across a broad range of industries are using gamification techniques to significantly improve their processes and give a powerful voice to their employees. Gamification plays a vital role in holding the employees’ interest by fostering creative thinking, re-imagining resource consumption, and exploring future challenges interactively. Traditional industries like the automobile industry can also use the gamification technique to understand the benefits and drawbacks of electric cars and the strategies they can implement to emerge as industry leaders.

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Guest Post

4 Virtual Office Christmas Party Ideas

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Virtual Office Christmas Party Ideas

Regardless of whether this would have been your company’s first Christmas party or the twentieth, you were probably putting plans in motion for a while now and hoping that COVID-19 would have been handled by the time the holidays arrived. However, seeing as how we are still in this situation where social distancing is recommended and many of us still work from home, your plans for the office party have probably changed. If you’ve decided not to cancel the cheer this year and opted for organizing a virtual party instead, you might be looking for some ideas and tips on how to make it a success even if you can’t all be in the same place. Keep on reading for some suggestions.

Socialize over cocktails

Even though you’re not all in the office or a place you’ve rented for the party, it doesn’t mean that you can’t set a time and date for the party and get fancy. Provide everyone with the platform you plan on using, whether it’s Zoom, Skype, or something else, and give them instructions on how to dress. You can either simply dress for a cocktail party or give the party a theme, such as wear your worst Christmas sweater. Seeing as how you’d be paying for drinks anyway, you should consider food and drink delivery to everyone’s home so that you can all have the same experience. When it comes to décor, allow the participants to do as they please, as it’s possible that some don’t celebrate Christmas or just don’t want to put up decorations. If you work in different time zones, it might not be time for cocktails everywhere so you can opt for coffee and snacks instead of drinks.

Play party games

Video calls also make it easy to play various party games. When planning the event, make sure to come up with these games in advance so that you know if there is anything that needs preparing beforehand. Luckily, there are many games that don’t require any preparation. For example, charades don’t require anything but a willingness to have fun. With a simple notepad and pen, you can also play Pictionary. Then, if your employees are a creative and talented bunch, you can organize a company talent show. Keep in mind that some workers are more introverted and might not want to take part in showing off their skills, so consider appointing them to be judges. Something else to take into consideration is giving out silly prizes to your team members – just make sure no one is overlooked.

Organize a Secret Santa exchange

If you were planning to do a Secret Santa gift exchange, you can still do that. You can find an organizer and generator online to help you get everything ready. When it comes to gifts, you should probably set a budget and rules as you don’t want some people to be disappointed by only getting a Christmas card and someone else getting a new laptop. Remember that you are also taking part in this and that you have to get a gift for one of your colleagues. If you get a female coworker you respect a lot, you should browse the internet for some Christmas gift ideas for her before you make a purchase. However, if you don’t know her all that well, a hamper full of sweet and savoury delights as well as a drink or two might be the solution you are looking for. Remind everyone to send their gifts on time so that you can all open them during your video call.

Make cookies together

Sometimes, a Christmas office party doesn’t have to be a party at all. If there are only a few of you in the company, you might be only looking for a way to spend some quality time together. One way to do that is by setting a time when you can all make cookies together. Maybe one of you is an expert at baking and is going to teach the rest how to make tasty treats for their families. Make sure you tell everyone which ingredients are necessary and what other equipment they might need. If you all agree on this, it’s essential that you are all relaxed as tension has no place at a Christmas party. In case someone can’t follow along, be patient and help them keep up. If baking is not your company’s forte, you can opt for other types of crafting projects, such as making your own decorations or gifts for other people.

While you can stick to the regular party setting and have everyone sip on cocktails from the comfort of their own home, you can also make the most of this new reality and come up with something new for your office holiday party. Who knows, maybe this new approach of baking together or playing games online turns into an annual thing.

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The fitness industry, the pandemic, and the future

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fitness industry during pandemic

In 2019 the fitness industry grew to ever greater heights. Buoyed on by global government  understanding of the value of a healthier population, and an increasingly wide gap between the  ultra-wealthy and the middle class, there seemed to be no stopping the march towards success. A  younger population less interested in drinking and smoking and a lot more interested in looking  good on camera. Fitness had become an affordable luxury and pursuit beyond simply having a  summer beach body.

The pandemic can be seen through the prism of the different sections of the industry. For example,  outdoor bootcamps were less immediately affected, and faster to open. Large box gyms, reliant on  inactive member bases, were quick to close, slow to open and faced financial impacts that could  shape the immediate future of the industry and beyond.

Then the pandemic struck and within the space of a few weeks the industry was suddenly plunged  into doubt and fear – indoor training seemed like it could be one of the easiest spreading  environments.

The industry response was nothing short of incredible. Within weeks it had completely pivoted and  was now offering an online version of its classes and keeping members along the path to their goals  – and mental health. Beyond that, fitness classes became more than just about fitness and  represented often the only community contact that an attendee might have in a day during the  lockdown.

We have experienced three main stages so far – the immediate backlash, the response, and the  second wave of understanding. Hopefully, they will soon be joined by a fourth, but for the time  being here is what we’ve learnt so far and what it means for the fitness industry.

The immediate backlash

The first thing that we saw was that the fitness industry seemed very likely to be hit, and very early.  The second thing was that the industry was largely being ignored in favour of hospitality.

This seemed to fly in the face of mounting evidence that health and fitness largely dictated the  potential danger of the virus, with the obese and unfit hit most hard. If anything you could say that a  reasonable response to the virus would have been mandated weight loss boot camps.

Why was the industry so exposed?

Closed spaces

With rising rents and the popularity of small box fitness, the industry has been working in smaller  and smaller spaces. This was a bad sign and there were concerns over viability if class sizes were  reduced by a large amount. This immediately looked to impact the most customer-focused  businesses – small group and boutique classes.

This didn’t impact personal trainers in the same way, and with this an important revenue stream for  most businesses, many clients switched to this format.

Indoor sanitation and cleaning

Quite simply, the perception of many fitness spaces was that of bad hygiene. The reality is of course  quite different. Reputation is vital and most fitness spaces recognise that cleanliness and safety are  key parts of customer happiness and retention – and even beyond that the ability to stay open in the  face of regulations. You could say that the fitness industry was ahead of the game in this respect.

Demographics

Different types of fitness appeal to different age groups. Once it was clear that the virus was less  dangerous for younger clients, the immediate fears subsided greatly.

Level of sweat

An early South Korean study showed that low impact exercise like yoga and Pilates were actually  incredibly low infectivity risks. The study was based on two infected instructors who taught both a  high impact dance based class and also low impact classes on the same day. The clients who  attended the high impact class were infected considerably. The low impact class? Zero infection  cases.

In March 2020 most fitness businesses closed their doors with the future uncertain. In what will be  looked back on as one of the most incredible stories of the pandemic, most did not stop trying to  help their clients.

Response

The response of most fitness businesses was to ask:

• How can we help customers maintain their fitness

• How can we ensure the survival of our business

• What does that look like

There were only really two options for business owners – try to stay open and relevant, or shut down  for a time and try to survive.

In countries like the UK, this was greatly helped by grants that were made to the hospitality sector,  including the fitness industry. However, this was also tempered by the lack of help with rent  payments. So, effectively, grants were made to support private landlords. This meant that sitting still  wouldn’t be enough.

In shock, and in the space of about two weeks, around 50% of small fitness businesses had switched  to an online offering supported by software systems like TeamUp that pivoted to help their  community of users.

The response was amazing. Customers didn’t just embrace the new classes… they loved them. Communities coming together

Stuck in lockdown, many customers felt disconnected and lonely. Online fitness classes filled a  huge gap and even the before class chat became a key connection point.

Some fitness owners ran quizzes and fun sessions just to focus on that community aspect. Disposable income

Although many were struggling with loss of income there was also the flip-side with many fitness  customers on furlough. This meant more disposable income and combined with the boredom of  confinement a rise in impulse purchases.

Blended online and in-person

As studios started to re-open, new and exciting business models emerged. The main one being a  blended model where online classes now filled an important role in the consistency of training. Now  there were options for when a class had to be missed due to other commitments.

A second wave of understanding

Most gyms re-opened in the early summer of 2020. With smaller classes and continued online  classes, it felt like a short term break from what was coming next.

Gyms and studios emerged as one of the safest environments

A UK study found that in 300,000 cases there were only 72 confirmed cases of the virus in gyms.  That was incredibly low and testament to the safety measures that fitness business owners had put  into place.

Customers desperate to get back to fitness

A study run by TeamUp with one of their Pilates customers showed that 50% of customers were  desperate or willing to get back to in-person classes. This was tempered by the other half of  customers wanting or being willing to continue with online classes in some form.

Misplaced fears

As the second wave gained pace, the UK, like many other countries, implemented a tiered system  for determining how businesses should respond. They included gyms closing which provoked a  furious backlash.

One owner in Liverpool refused to close his doors, and was fined by the police multiple times. The  industry rallied behind his story and others, and the overwhelming sentiment led to the changing of  the rules around gyms, meaning they only had to close in the most extreme of cases.

The evidence supported this approach and it was another great example of the industry being able to  effect change.

The future holds different risks and opportunities for different sectors. The format and size of  classes is a key part of any response.

What does the future look like?

For each type of fitness business, the future looks different. Class size, membership models, facility  specifications and the demographics of their members are big factors.

Class size

Class size is a big factor in the success of in-person or online classes. If a business is not profitable  with small classes they might be unable to run them, or if they cannot help clients in a personal way,  then they will face competition from pre-recorded sessions.

Membership models

Memberships that are too inflexible risk cancellation if circumstances change. The same for  offerings that are dependant on a particular set of equipment that can’t be replicated at home.  However, some fitness offerings like pole fitness did not struggle to replicate their programs to keep  customers motivated and happy.

Facility types

Entrance size and physical safety of common areas are factors. Also, the shape and overall floor  space will likely dictate class size for a long time to come.

Personal training is less affected but the number of trainers on the floor and the extra time spent  cleaning will impact profits.

Member demographics

It goes without saying that the older the customer group, certainly for the first wave, the more  impacted a business will be. An outstanding example of a response to this is the Pilates industry  which, despite unfavourable demographics, found that their help extended easily through screens.

What does the future look like for…?

Depending on the type of business, there is also a very different outlook and set of opportunities. Box box gyms

Without a doubt, big box gyms are the most at risk. Despite having the space for larger classes and  occupancy, their financial model is not based on the members actually at the gym. With huge costs  including rent, equipment and cleaning, they are under a lot of threat.

There is also the perception of less safety in a bigger environment.

With customers at home they are also not close to the big gym they use near their office.

In an industry whose profits are based on membership fees for inactive clients and who naturally  have a less active community, the future is looking challenging. Of course there are outstanding  businesses in this sector who will find a way to thrive.

Boutique and small studios

In-person might vary in availability but the good news for the smaller class sector is that they have  shown themselves to be able to adapt quickly and customers being willing to accept change.

Coached online – small classes via platforms like TeamUp for Zoom. This is the perfect blend of  online and small group coaching. The industry has adapted and the quality of classes and delivery is  very high.

It’s clear that customers place their fitness relationship at the centre of their world and independent  fitness businesses who do the same will survive and thrive.

However, it is the time to adapt and blend models if these businesses rely on large indoor classes,  specialist equipment, or coach heavy training that cannot be replicated online. With a bit of  imagination and innovation, this shouldn’t present an impassable obstacle.

Home gyms and pre-recorded online classes

Home gyms and pre-recorded online classes are likely to boom for the foreseeable future. New  programs launching and equipment sales are at breaking point. The only thing stopping this sector is  the availability of global shipments. Even movie stars have jumped on this wave. However,  competition is high, and the problem remains that when you pay for a coach you pay for  accountability and results. Online interest tapers off quickly and results can be disappointing.  However, this is not true of coached online…

The conclusion

Whatever the immediate future holds, the fitness industry has shown itself to be capable of  incredible feats of change and adaptation. Fitness customers wanting results aren’t going anywhere,  and even with a more diverse offering of routes to their goals available, are never going to stop  needing accountability and support. The industry is ready for whatever comes next.

About the Author: The article has been written by Tim Green. Tim is the Head of Marketing and Partnerships at TeamUp.

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