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Creating a membership insight community through ACS Insight Lab

by Barbara A. Sawrey, Director-At-Large
January 23, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 4

Credit: Kevin Schumacher/GIA
Photo of Barbara Sawrey.
Credit: Kevin Schumacher/GIA

A trend seen in the last few years in market research is the use of online panels as the sample for research projects. These panels can be created around a commonality among recruited members, or a random selection of people from different walks of life.

In 2015, the American Chemical Society launched its exclusive ACS member panel, ACS Insight Lab. The goal of ACS Insight Lab is to have a designated audience ready to provide insight into all facets of the society. The ACS Insight Lab allows staff to conduct research on an ongoing basis and turn questions into actionable insights in days rather than weeks or months. The ACS Insight Lab also facilitates both quantitative and qualitative research to inform marketing decisions related to development for customer service, products, pricing, placement and positioning, and promotion.

These types of online panels and communities are typically used by Fortune 500 companies to better understand customer needs and collect product feedback. The adaptation of this model for a professional member association, which does not have the same consumer-product relationship, was both innovative and risk taking. The ACS Insight Lab was one of the first association or professional membership insight communities that the platform had ever created; the platform provider has since reached out to ACS about presenting at their conferences to share recruitment and engagement strategies.

Credit: Shutterstock
Focus groups help improve the Society.
Photo of small group working together.
Credit: Shutterstock
Focus groups help improve the Society.

The overarching goal of this tool is to enhance member value and engagement. Another goal is to provide information for every unit in the society, leading to improved understanding of our members’ needs, to increased revenue potential, and to constituent growth. The ACS Insight Lab provides quick, representative, and targeted feedback while reducing the likelihood of frustrating our members. We only reach out to those individuals interested and engaged with a certain topic. The advantage of this online group of advisors to the society is that it allows for fewer surveys in the field at any given time and a more complete understanding of member insights through continuous data collection into a single database.

One of the projects within ACS Insight Lab this year has been an ongoing effort to better understand our millennial members. Additional students and young professionals were recruited specifically for this research project, providing feedback in different discussion forums and surveys about their perspective on ACS and the world at large. From their insights and supportive secondary research, ACS now has a set of Millennial Core Principles to help guide all future product development and marketing efforts for this growing generation of our membership.

The following comments are representative of the feedback we’ve gotten from participants about ACS Insight Lab:

▸ “I would like to tell you that my experience in ACS Insight Lab was the best thing I have ever done in my life because I felt that I am an important part of the chemistry community.”

▸ “I love the surveys. There’s nothing better than doing a survey and seeing the things I suggested be implemented or discussed. It’s nice to feel like my opinions are valued.”

▸ “I enjoy providing feedback and staying up to date with new technologies. I appreciate the ease of use and professionalism of the ACS Insight Lab.”

▸ “The ACS Insight Lab is a fun interactive way to express my impressions and opinions to the ACS. It makes me feel like a valued ACS member when my opinion on various programs is sought.”

Members of the ACS Insight Lab participate in two activities per month, such as evaluating an ACS product like ACS Presentations On-Demand, commenting on discussion boards about networking experiences, and testing web applications like the ACS online membership renewal processes.

By participating in ACS Insight Lab, you’ll get to share your insights and experiment with new ideas; access the Lab Report newsletter, which shares what we’ve learned from you and how we’ve adopted your input; get exclusive sneak peeks and early-bird offers from ACS; and have the opportunity to win prizes in contests just for the ACS Insight Lab community.

If you are interested in learning more about ACS Insight Lab or joining the panel, please contact, or visit

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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