The content below has been adapted from a short piece by Henk that was published in the Southern African Journal of Marketing Research*. We hope you enjoy reading it.

(*Issue 5, 4th Quarter 2008)

Web 2.0
The arrival of the participatory web, commonly referred to as Web 2.0, has seen hundreds of millions of people around the world connecting through blogs, wikis, chat rooms, social networking sites and personal broadcasting channels. The Web 2.0 shift signified the progression from static web content delivery to a dynamic platform with a myriad of cyber-voices joining in on the act. It’s even spawned a whole new lexicon, with words like blogosphere, wiki, findability, folksonomy and vlogging. If you recognise these words, or if you’re reading this with one eye drifting toward your Facebook profile (or a YouTube video), you’re part of the statistic. Web 2.0 in its various incarnations certainly has a pervasive influence on today’s culture.

Web 2.0 and business
Web 2.0 has also had an impact on business practice seeing how these platforms have created a dialogue where consumers review, re-sell, discuss, share and create with (and sometimes against) brands all via new web platforms. Yesterday’s passive consumer is today’s co-innovator and co-creator. Businesses have realised the potential of harnessing these eager consumers’ contributions by rendering their online operations “Web 2.0 friendly”.

The rise of the “prosumer”
Over a decade ago Don Tapscott coined the term “prosumption” (Tapscott, 1996) to indicate how the lines between consumers and producers of goods are increasingly being blurred in the digital age. New web platforms are opening up possibilities for mass collaboration with companies that place consumers in the middle of innovation and production efforts. The increase in consumers that expect to have a say in product and service development (and the somewhat slower increase in companies that allow them to) poses an opportunity to the customer-centric organization. The opening is often there to harness these insights in productive ways.

Marketing research as an enabler for business decision making will necessarily be affected by this changing consumer and organisational mindset.

Research 2.0
The term “Research 2.0” was coined to announce the research world’s response to this new Web 2.0 world. Research 2.0 seeks a dialogue with consumers engaging with them continuously, connecting with them through the various platforms that Web 2.0 offers. This new paradigm challenges the static “top-down” research approach based on what international Research 2.0 authority Ray Poynter (2007) calls the “command and control” research mode. It is a bottom-up approach that often challenges the client – researcher – respondent hierarchy. Techniques like blog research, online research communities, online “coolhunting”, social network research and “Netnography” have all evolved from the Web 2.0 collaboration imperative. This research paradigm is growing rapidly in Europe and the US. Various international conferences are being organized that center solely around this topic.

The changing mindset of the MR industry
As with all substantial changes to industry practice initial caution may be warranted but organisations around the world are increasingly taking these new methods in their stride. While it may be early days yet for this new movement, growing evidence points to a situation where Research 2.0 could sit comfortably alongside traditional approaches and augment consumer insights in the coming decades.

Poynter, R. (2007). Main developments and trends. In Van Hamersveld, M., & De Bont, C (Eds.) (2007), Market Research Handbook, 5th Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: West Sussex.

Tapscott, D. (1996). The Digital Economy. (New York: McGraw-Hill)