Editor’s note: Alex Osbaldeston is client services director at information technology firm Questback, London.

As it becomes more difficult to gain detailed insight via traditional survey methods, companies are looking at new ways of reaching and engaging with market research participants. The key to this is understanding how global attitudes and behaviors are changing and using these trends to help brands develop a deeper understanding of their target consumers.

According to research by research firm GfK, there are signs that people are becoming increasingly collaborative and open to community participation. Its Consumer Life study, a global survey that tracks changes in 50 values and guiding principles that people consider most significant, suggests that values such as helpfulness, open-mindedness, creativity and knowledge have all increased in importance over the last five years. The same is true for people’s sense of social responsibility – they now place a lower value on individuality. All of this points to a greater interest in, and desire for, a sense of community.

People’s online behavior also tends to support the idea of a shift toward community feeling. The popularity of social media, for example, could be viewed partly as our need to feel connected and to engage with other like-minded people – many of whom we may not have met in person. At the same time people are increasingly inclined to read and contribute to community-type sites such as Wikipedia.

Another example is found in the increasing number of people who write online reviews so that others can benefit from their experiences. A Pew Internet study suggests that even in 2010, 24 percent of American adults were posting comments or online reviews about their purchases. When it comes to making purchasing decisions, a Google study reveals that 67.7 percent of online consumers consider online reviews. 

Value in online engageme...