‘Good enough’ research no longer provides the competitive advantage clients need, yet budgets remain as tight as ever. Despite the ability of market research to survive and thrive in the face of change, the future for online communities looks challenging. But there is hope for their survival, Andy Buckley argues, if they can evolve into Insight Ecosystems.

What you’ll learn:

  • For new researchers, an introduction to the concept of online communities – their history and benefits, plus the full range of online community models, from small scale qualitative to enormous CRM-linked databases
  • How the research industry can respond positively to threats and change, bringing hope and inspiration against an increasingly challenging economic backdrop
  • An awareness of adjacent industries like digital listening
  • How elements of AI can be used in online communities

April’s Speaker Evening examines the waves of change that have shaped the inception and current state of online communities, showing how they have the potential to survive and even thrive in a new and challenging environment.

The first wave

Web 2.0 was the catalyst for the inception of online communities in the mid-noughties. People became comfortable with chatting online, using early platforms like Myspace and Bebo and ditched desktops in favour of laptops. Community platforms and suites of research tools sprang up to tap into this phenomenon.

Early online communities were short term and qualitative, emphasising the value of user-generated content. We found new ways for people to participate in research and focused on in-home, adult-to-adult conversations, believing we were getting richer insights and reaching people who had never taken part in research before.

The second wave

While the recession of 2007-2009 shook budget-holders, it presented online communities with a fantastic growth opportunity. Morphing into larger ‘community panels’, Market Research Online Communities (MROCs) offered the sweetspot of faster, cheaper and more flexible qual and quant research. Turnaround times were slashed and clients conducted quality research with half the budget.

The third wave

In recent years, online communities have faced new threats. Big Data, AI and Digital/CRM departments are all promising insights that will predict customer behaviour and link it to business outcomes. Meanwhile, the industry itself is questioning the value of insight gained by simply asking questions and analysing answers. Developments in social media listening are challenging the need for user-generated content on community forums, while automated platforms are offering fast, cheap research solutions.

Clients’ and stakeholders’ needs have evolved so that ‘good enough’ research no longer provides the competitive advantage needed.

The future for online communities looks challenging, but there is hope. They have the potential to survive and even thrive in this environment by evolving into Insight Ecosystems. By combining primary research with, for example, adjacencies like digital listening and big data, we can deliver a deeper understanding of people than ever before, embedding us into client organisations, their data lakes and ultimately their decision making.

About the speaker:

Andy Buckley has over 20 years’ experience working in market research agencies, including ORC and Harris Interactive. Now Head of Talent and Innovation at Join the Dots, Andy’s projects range from building the company’s new community platform and suite of mobile-first research tools, to setting up new business streams like the Culture and Trends team. A seasoned presenter to large audiences and conferences, Andy is also a published author in the ESOMAR Market Research Handbook, 5th Edition.

Mike Stevens, from What Next Strategy & Planning, is a strategy consultant working at the intersection of technology, research and analytics.

He has 20 years’ experience with insight, software and consulting firms including Vision Critical, where he led the EMEA region, and Kantar, where he managed business units and global accounts.

Mike is also the Founder and Editor of insightplatforms.com, the directory of software and data solutions for research, analytics and customer experience management. 


Bookings will open approximately 6 weeks before each event. 

This event is free for MRS members. Non-members are welcome to attend for a fee of £25.00 + VAT, which must be paid in advance.

If you would like to join MRS to enable you to attend this event for free and take advantage of the other benefits of membership please click here.


The Old Trading House, 15 Northburgh Street,London,EC1V 0JR

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