There has been a lot of discussion in the industry about whether Market Research Online Communities (MROCs) are the future of the industry or simply a fad that will pass.
Communities and community-like research is here to stay. The past couple of years have been an inflection point in our
industry. “Standard” qualitative is changing dramatically. Therefore,
expectations are changing and communities are a reflection of that.
No longer will “8-10 people in a conference room talking about your
product in a project that requires 2 weeks of recruiting, followed by
travel to four cities and two weeks for the final report” be the
“standard” of qualitative research. Qualitative research has fragmented
so that the method fits the project objectives, which often include a
tighter schedule and budget.
Toss into this mix the rising world concern about privacy and the
industry concern about data quality and you get a situation tailor-made
for something like communities. As we have seen over the past couple of
years, communities have evolved. They are not just for the Fortune 50
any more. They will continue to evolve. But other options will evolve
along with them that also make research faster, better and cheaper.
Much research will be online but F2F will continue to be valuable, but
the old “standard” focus group project will lose share dramatically.
Generally, communities are here to stay but they are not the total
answer. They are an example of the new ways of thinking in research as
we pass through this inflection point into a new (dare I say it?)
paradigm in research methodology.