Phones 4U last week revealed the uBar, a virtual customer panel that will target its core 16- to 24-year-old market. Similar to the MindBubble and New Look online research communities, the idea is that the site will be used to ask questions of the customers that get involved, but also stimulate customers to ask questions of each other.

The retailer has used consumer panels with success before, but this is the first time it has run the whole process internally. Phones 4U head of consumer insight Graeme Ford says that by being more flexible in customer engagement he hopes to gain a far deeper understanding of customer wants and needs.

Ford is enthusiastic and aims to recruit 1,000 consumers to the site in the next month; although he stresses it is looking for quality over quantity in its initial research. To maximise the value of what is generated, he promises that all stakeholders in the business will have access to the ideas and insight that the community creates.