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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Miller's vision for community panel growth

Vision Critical’s new CEO Scott Miller estimates that currently money spent on online community panels accounts for between 2% and 3% of global market research spend worth $33.5bn. “It’s very, very small,” he concedes. But the growth opportunity is massive. Ultimately, a “10%,15% or even 20%” market share is not beyond the realms of possibility, Miller thinks.

Venture capitalists OMERS would seem to agree. Shortly before Miller’s promotion to global CEO last month, the company invested $20m into Vision Critical. Asked how he plans to spend the money, Miller says: “We’re still in the process of honing the priorities. But there is geographical and sector growth to consider, and we will also need to bring in new people.”

As far as geographical growth is concerned, Miller did not simply point to the usual emerging market countries. Instead, he explained that Vision Critical plans to “follow client needs” around the world. There are markets like the US and Europe, he said, which may be mature by the rest of the industry’s standards but which still have room for “an awful lot of development” in terms of community panels, Miller said.

Rather than spending the private equity cash on establishing local offices in each country, Miller said the firm’s strategy will continue to focus on finding and working with local partners to sell their products – as it has already done successfully in Asia and Latin America – with Vision Critical providing support at a regional level.

“I would say that the number of partner requests is accelerating at a pretty rapid rate,” he said. “There will be more partners signed in next three to six months because of demand in new markets.”

Miller reckons there’s a virality to the uptake of community panels which explains the rise in partner requests. “Nobody sells better to clients than another client,” he says. Meanwhile, Vision Critical helps spread the word by inviting existing community users to “client summits” where case studies and success stories are shared.

As more clients adopt community panels, Miller see benefits for researchers in terms of freeing up their time to focus on research and analysis, rather than getting bogged down in other tasks. “I think that the ecosystem of the future will see that the value proposition for market research goes up as they interpret and consult on the insight gained from community panels,” he said. “Then researchers will get to do all the things they were trained in at college.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Agree with Scott, I founded EasyInsites just 3 1/2 years ago to specialise in community panels and have grown considerably since then with that particular focus. The majority of our clients are in the US and UK, supporting Scott's point that the mature research markets still have plenty of community/custom panel opportunity. Although we work primarily with end clients, we have experienced substantial growth in our work with other research agencies who seek our expertise in the build and management of these panels and want to outsource these tasks as well as the online fieldwork utilising these panels.

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