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NEWS12 October 2009

Forrester sees increasing forays into online communities

North America Trends

US— A new study from Forrester has found that a third of market researchers are using or planning to use online communities in the next 12 months – but a similar number have never even heard of them.

Forrester’s study, written by Tamara Barber (pictured), found growing experimentation with online communities, but warned that most buyers need service, support and encouragement, not just software.

Forrester surveyed 78 researchers and interviewed nine vendor companies, including Communispace, Vision Critical, Vovici, Globalpark and MarketTools.

“Researchers want to partner with trusted providers that can bring a flexible offering, methodological expertise, a superior service to the table,” writes Barber. “Given the number of new entrants into the MROC vendor space, expect to see more choices in service model options, better integration of community research with quantitative projects, and focus on insights from clientside market researchers.”

With more community vendors appearing, and existing agencies introducing communities to their offering, Barber said that buyers have an increasing array of services to choose from, including services shared between clients and services integrated with quantitative research services. Vendors with a ‘self service’ offering are likely to find themselves selling to larger research agencies looking to provide the service element themselves and sell the package on to end clients.

Barber also highlighted a degree of flexibility around what is and is not included in online community services, and a focus from clients on “insight and actionable output”.

• A new study by Deloitte found that organisations are making effective use of online tools to engage participants, they are still struggling to tap their full potential – with measurement a key factor in this. Deloitte found increasing sophistication in the way online communities are used, but said that signficant gaps continue to exist “between community goals and how success is being measured”.

@RESEARCH LIVE

4 Comments

10 years ago

I agree with what Barber has written but would recommend distinguishing between communities and custom panels. Both are and will continue to experience substantial growth, but they are not the same. Barber is mostly commenting on communities not custom panels when she writes that there are still gaps between goals and measuring success and realising their full potential. Custom panels in contrast have very explicit purposes and can be used for a wide array of research applications, often as a low cost alternative to the purchase of sample from access panels. To read further and to comment on this topic, go to the EasyInsites blog at www.EasyInsites.com.

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10 years ago

Is there anyway to access this report? It is very interesting.

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10 years ago

Tamara’s report hit the nail on the head- we are definitely seeing more brands wanting to manage their communities in-house so that anyone on the marketing, research or ad teams can drum up real-time consumer insight from their desktops. We are also seeing more agencies interested in a self-service platform that they can manage for their clients, as building a community practice has increased on the priority list. I agree with Charles Pearson in his comments above, however, that companies need to really consider what their objectives are when evaluating software solutions- the market has definitely gotten a bit muddied with companies calling themselves community providers but who actually just do surveys or panels. If you are looking for quick answers to specific questions, then this could be sufficient for your needs, but if your objectives are to really listen to and engage with your customers for deeper insight, then you need to look for a more comprehensive community platform. Steve Howe, CEO, Passenger

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10 years ago

I agree with Steve complete regarding the importance of clients determining their needs, goals and budgets. But I would suggest that a custom panel is not only good for quick answers given the fact that a continuous dialogue can be most easily maintained with these customers and consumers given their level of engagement and commitment to the process. Diary studies and concentrated research endeavours can be most easily achieved with a custom panel. Too often with a community there are of course so many distractions as customers dialogue and interact freely with one another, as well as a likely concentrated skew to those who are very extreme in their loyalty and commitment to the brand, and of course this is not always the population that is appropriate for the research. Both have their place, but let's not narrowly define what a custom panel can be used for when it has far reaching and broad usage implications and in many ways that extend beyond what a community can provide. charles@easyinsites.com

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