Tamara Barber [Posted by Tamara Barber]

As a prelude to our Wave on full service MROC vendors, we recently released results  from a survey on market researchers’ use of communities. The findings highlight the fact that this is still a nascent methodology but one that researchers are no doubt interested in. Based on my view of the current vendor landscape, here is where my head’s at after mulling over the survey results:

  • Service: Most client-side market researchers right now want to work with a vendor that offers some form of service in community set up and management. This methodology is new enough that a lot of researchers aren’t comfortable taking the reins on day-to-day management of these communities, which includes tasks such sample management, moderation, reporting, and research planning. Not to mention the fact that running a community completely in-house would in many cases require at least one full-time person dedicated to all things MROC. Vendors need to develop flexible service options that allow clients to scale services up or down depending on their needs and budget.
  • Cost: For large companies who already spend a significant amount on qualitative research, MROCs can provide impressive cost savings by taking this research from in-person, point-in-time insights, to virtual, continuous interactions. But, for smaller companies, the price tag (usually at least 150K for one year) that comes along with using a full service MROC vendor can be steep. Enter the shared community: which in its simplest terms is a panel that’s drawn-on for short-term online qualitative projects. For those who don’t want to commit to a long term custom community, this solution can still provide quick qualitative insights over a number of days, weeks, and even months. This shared model will grow in popularity as online community research becomes a more accepted practice.
  • Insights integration: It’s easy to see online communities’ appeal based on their speed and relative cost savings. But once the initial shine wears off of this methodology, clients are going to push their vendors to get better with their insights. Expect to see vendors differentiate themselves based on how well they can integrate other insights and data along with what comes out of the community. This will include things like a single platform that easily migrates community insights directly into a new survey or concept test, or using customer data to segment community members as they analyze qualitative results, or incorporating relevant feeds from blogs or social networking sites to help inform or give context to conversations happening in the community. The acquisition of HiveLive by CRM platform RightNow is an example of the kinds of new partnerships and solutions we will see moving forward.

How do you see this market evolving?  I welcome your thoughts on the conclusions above, as well as any key development opportunities I might not have mentioned here.