In the spirit of every blogger's "predictions for 2010" posts, here are PluggedIN's predictions for where MROCs might be heading in 2010...
Specialization in Custom MROCs - As the methodology is widely adopted across the industry, we'll start to see vendors carve their niche around a speciality. For example, we might see more companies jumping on B2B MROCs as a focus, or creating methods around ideation/brainstorming specifically. We have a feeling we won't see this specialization come out of "traditional" MROC vendors, but rather out of those who realize that the tools for building their own MROC approach are readily available, allowing them to use their existing focus in a nascent methodology.
Tighter Intergration of Social Media Monitoring and MROCs - At various MR conference this year, the hot topic was how to effectively capture sentiments on brands, products, etc... across the social media landscape. Various vendors are rushing to address this now (or already have), specifically within the realm of market research. However, the undertone in each of these conversations was the question of how market researchers can provide context for these responses and understand their implications for our clients specifically. It's here that MROCs have the opportunity to shine for next year, as social media mining will become more prevalent, along with the need to make sense of these sentiments. We took baby steps in this area earlier this year when we integrated Twitter and various other social media properties into the PluggedIN Platform, but look for much more from MROC vendors in the year to come...
Technology/Platform Prices Dropping - As with any technology, the cost of licensing MROC platforms will likely decrease this year. While there are many general purpose community platforms out there, and relatively few market research-specific platforms, we think the industry will start to see more solutions custom designed around the needs of market researchers. More competition for self service clients could drive the prices down across the board.
Fortune 100 No Longer - It's telling when the analyst report that starts it all in motion (e.g., Brad Bortner's original report on "Will Web 2.0 Transform Market Research?") has the subtitle of "Yes - But High Cost Will Mean That Firms With Big Budgets Lead." That was 2008, when a handful of firms dominated the space. In 2010, we see more competition in the MROC space that will force larger vendors to either drop their prices for long-term community engagements, or figure out how to add more value to their approach. Continuing with the trend we just mentioned (platform prices dropping), 2010 will finally start to see firms without big budgets moving into MROCs as their primary mode of obtaining in-depth qualitative insights in a cost effective manner.
MROCs Will Finally Divorce Themselves From Panels - For years now people have used the terms panel and community interchangeably... In 2009 we started to see a clearly defined difference in the minds of end users, which is something we think will continue into 2010. Panels are not communities and communities are not panels. We think the industry has finally caught on, and it's time to figure out how to make the most of the MROC approach.
That's just our two cents after seeing how this niche in the MR industry has evolved over the last four years... What do you think?
--Matt & Ben