And Then There was Agile
Market research is not rocket science. It’d be easier if it were.
Brands need to be on their toes constantly working with consumer insights through meticulous market research. These insights act as a reference point for marketers to craft their campaigns to hit the necessary KPIs.
However, insights is the product, like potato chips. If Frito lays still had people slicing and dicing potatoes instead of machines, they’d be out of business in a heartbeat. Similarly, if one keeps conducting market research the traditional way, there is no way to get consumer insights on time. Late consumer insights is much like a plague to brands.
It’s time to move forward with agility.
What is Agile Market Research?
In the agile way of conducting market research,
- Technology is brought to the forefront, by automating research processes to simplify them.
- Brands can test their products, packaging, or ads, continuously, learn from the consumer-insights and take data-driven decisions.
- Researchers and marketers work in tandem with each other.
- The main study is split into smaller studies that are spread across the timeline.
- Smaller studies are carried out continuously, throughout the timeline, so that the iteration in their results can be used to iterate the campaign.
Moving Forward with Agile Market Research
Adopting agile research methodologies is not just about reorganizing workflows and processes to introduce collaboration. It’s about adopting a culture, within teams and across teams, that is rooted in adopting technology to enable continuous learning and thereby continuous improvement. It is about cross-functional collaboration, where transparency and visibility between functions are the driving forces.
So, prior to adopting agile research methodologies, the teams involved must be briefed and onboarded on to an agile culture.
What’s in it for Brands?
Research and marketing teams contemplating the adoption of agile research methodologies are on the right track. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ – as businesses take on digital transformation head-on, it is high time that research and marketing teams went agile.
Let’s look at some of the advantages of agile market research, and the disadvantages of traditional methods that it will eliminate it will eliminate.
Traditional Method Disadvantage 1: Time Consuming
Traditional market research involves a lot of manual processes – from data collection, segregation, analysis, and reporting to name a few. These processes sound simple, but when done manually take around 8-12 weeks to churn out consumer insights. Now that the turnaround time is stretched out, decision-making is delayed and so is the GTM timeline, adversely affecting brands.
Agile Method Advantage 1: Agility
When brands adopt agile market research methods, they are essentially automating research processes. As the scope of manual processes reduces, the pace picks up and teams are privy to consumer insights in only a matter of 1-2 weeks. This moves up decision-making, as well as GTM timelines, readying brands to take over their competitors.
Traditional Method Disadvantage 2: Lack of Actionability
In traditional research, consumer insights are already lagging. Along with this, when researchers present the consumer insights to marketers, in a report, it lacks clarity as to the next course of action. The lack of a clear call to action stems from a combination of a lack of clarity in goal setting. In short, when it comes to traditional methods, the reports are just a summarized information report of consumer feedback, and not exactly insights.
Agile Method Advantage 2: Data Visualization & Storytelling
Consumer insights is the interpretation of patterns within consumer feedback data. With agile research methods, the adoption of technology comes into the picture, and with it – agile research platforms. These platforms have customizable dashboards that present actionable consumer insight. They tell the researchers and marketers if their product or packaging or ad needs an improvement, or if it is good as is. This way, marketers have clarity on their next course of action.
Traditional Method Disadvantage 3: Scattered Research Insights
In the course of collecting consumer feedback through traditional research, data is collected from multiple sources. The lack of data models incites data clutter which overflows into consumer insights clutter. Even when insights are drawn from consumer feedback data, they are all in siloed systems, unable to connect with each other – giving researchers and marketers an unfinished picture of the consumer. Crafting consumer-facing campaigns with broken insights is troubling to write the least.
Agile Method Advantage 3: Single Source of Truth
Bringing back platforms into the picture, researchers and marketers will now have a platform that comes with data models for collection, storage, and analysis. A unified solution where all those involved in the research process have access and visibility into. This way, consumer feedback data is in one place as well as the insights. With all insights in one place, the platform with its advanced algorithm finds patterns and trends that present marketers with the larger picture of the consumers/the market. Marketers now have well-rounded consumer insights to work with.
Traditional Method Disadvantage 4: Lacks Accuracy
The manual way of market research calls for inaccuracies. Either through bias or an error in data analysis. Bias can be in developing surveys, selecting the wrong panel, combing through consumer feedback, and selecting only the ones the researchers want, and so on. All these could tamper with the accuracy of consumer insights, bringing down its quality. Developing campaigns, spending millions of dollars, all based on faulty consumer insights is not such a clever idea.
Agile Method Advantage 4: Accurate Insights
Whereas in agile research methodology, manual processes are discouraged as agile research platforms take over the grunt work. These platforms can handle both quantitative and qualitative studies, which means researchers can look at studies through both lenses. With quant and qual insights coming together, consumer insights are accurate like never before. What’s more?
Some of these platforms come packed with AI technologies, such as facial coding, eye tracking, voice AI to capture consumer behavior. With platforms analyzing unstated consumer behavior, it adds another layer of accuracy to consumer insights, marketers have no dearth of high-quality insights.
How do teams go about continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is a data-driven process optimization model. This method reduces overheads when iterating research processes or product features. Continuous improvement is executed by a continuous flow of feedback from the consumers, or in this case the panel of respondents.
In the case of agile research, as research studies are carried out simultaneously, the incoming feedback is uninterrupted. This means that researchers and marketers are never in a dearth of consumer insights. With the constant inflow of consumer insights, marketers can keep improving their product or consumer-facing campaign to achieve maximum engagement or conversions – whatever the goals might be. Continuous improvement must be a key component in product or campaign delivery in a climate where market and consumer expectations shift in the blink of an eye.
Adopting Agile Market Research
Adopting the agile way of functioning, as mentioned previously is not just about setting up workflows. Let’s have a look at how brands can instill agility into their teams of researchers and marketers.
Adopt Minimum Viable product (MVP) Culture
The lack of an agile research method will bring resistance when adopting or even suggesting the MVP route. Before getting into the technicalities of MVP, one must understand the underlying principle of the MVP method – customer satisfaction and continuous improvement.
MVP method is when brands formulate a product, packaging, ad, or video, with features and functions enough for consumers to gauge and understand its value. When MVPs are shared with the consumers, they are tasked to provide feedback to the brands on modifying the MVP to fit their expectations. This way, brands have a ton of feedback and an actionable route to ensure that the final product performs well in the market.
It must be kept in mind that the MVP is only for testing purposes and is never released into the market. As MVPs are continuously tested over time, brands also have the bandwidth to continuously improve the product based on continuous consumer feedback.
Researchers and marketers will no longer work separately, but in collaboration with each other. Functions will be defined but will not be specific to research and marketing operations but will be a bit of both – hence cross-functional teams.
Both teams will work on setting goals for the study, designing the study, crafting questions, rationalizing insights, and planning the next course of action. The adoption of agile research platforms will also help with team collaboration. Ownership and accountability are spread across teams, empowering individuals to be more responsible for their own functions and mindful of others.
Embrace Digital Transformation, Embrace DIY
It is time for brands to talk automation in their research processes. With digital transformation engulfing industries and empowering them with agile capabilities, brands should not leave out automating market research. The way forward for researchers and marketers in agile research platforms.
With agile research platforms in the picture, consumer research can be carried out in-house. Conducting research studies in-house has many numbers of benefits such as
- Improved visibility into processes
- Scaled up research capabilities
- Secure data practices
Incorporate Sprint Planning
Sprint planning is the origin story for continuous feedback and continuous improvement.
The agile methodology is a response to the struggles in the waterfall method. In a waterfall, processes are broken into stages which are completed one after the other. The outcomes of each stage are viewed as a helper to the main outcomes and are not given much importance. This results in research processes taking too much time to complete, with no room for flexibility or iteration. Brands would have to start from scratch.
In agile workflows, larger research is broken into smaller studies. These smaller studies are conducted simultaneously and do not wait for one of them to be completed. The outcomes of each stage are seen as individual action items, as well as contributing to the larger study. Agile research methods encourage consumer feedback enabling iterations of the product, over the course of the research. Agile research workflows are thus flexible.
Phases of Agile Market Research
Now that we know the pre-requisites of adopting agile research methods, let us look at the phases of agile research in every sprint.
- Plan the scope of the research study – complete with research design, selecting the right panel, recognizing the consumer insights the brand requires.
- Develop survey questions and design stimuli presentation for accurate and true responses.
- Evaluate consumer feedback through actionable dashboards and take data-driven decisions for the next course of action.
- Assess the research processes executed in the sprint and look for intersections that can be optimized to reduce waste and improve efficiency in the next sprint cycle.
The future of consumer research is agile, and the adoption of agile research is through SaaS platforms.
All in one Place
Brands lean one of two ways – quantitative or qualitative research.
Quantitative CX Research includes
- Behavioral Studies using facial coding and eye tracking
- A/B Testing
Qualitative CX Research includes
- Focus Group Discussions
- In-dept Interviews
- Behavioral Studies using facial coding and voice AI
The beauty of agile research platforms lies in the fact that it supports both these methodologies and has in-built capabilities to automate them. Research and marketers can spend their time in operations that require strategizing, instead of mundane tasks like data collection, survey distribution, taking notes while conducting interviews, etc.
With COVID-19 turning markets upside down and encouraging remote culture, marketers and researchers were at a loss when it came to conducting traditional consumer research. They could not call-in respondents for focus group discussions or schedule interviews anymore.
Brands had to go adopt online meeting tools to conduct these in-person surveys. Even then, researchers and marketers had to cling on to every word the respondents said, take down notes, annotated their expressions, segregate them into buckets, analyze the data manually and derive insights. There are a hundred ways things could go south in adopting the usual off-the-shelf meeting tool.
However, with the advent of the agile research platform, researchers and marketers can sit back while conducting interviews. Transcripts are auto-generated, expressions of the respondents are captured through cutting-edge AI technologies, and comments are segregated into buckets thanks to AI/ml algorithms – that improve over time. Translation capabilities are embedded within these platforms, which means brands can run ethnographic studies in local languages, widening the scope of research.
Another beauty of agile research platforms is that brands no longer need to depend on research agencies that take 8-12 weeks to churn out consumer insights. Not only is it painstakingly time-consuming, the validity of the insights is also questionable. There is no visibility into the research process, analysis methods, consumer feedback and so on. It’s all about trusting the consumer insights, and trust acting as the base for consumer-facing campaigns that take up millions of dollars is flimsy at best. Consumer-facing campaigns must be driven by consumer insights that are backed by data instead of trust.
Adopting an agile research platform is the smartest thing brands can do. Teams no longer have to brief 3rd party organizations or agencies on the requirements, scope, and expectations. These platforms are easy to use and intuitive, anyone could execute a consumer research study. Both researchers and marketers can use without having to spend any time on training or adoption. This way, all those involved with the study have visibility into consumer feedback. Insights are automatically churned onto dashboards through built-in intelligent algorithms – eliminating any form of bias or human error.
Single Source of Customer Intelligence
Complete visibility into one research is great What about visibility into all research projects, in one place? It is nothing short of exceptional. Brands can now manage multiple research studies under one platform. With customizable dashboards, there is also the added benefit of benchmarking.
Benchmarking is when brands can get their hands on the relative performance of their product, packaging, ad, or video, within their specific industry. This helps brands in understanding their standing in the market – if they need to up their game or roll it out with a few modifications. Brands can also compare the consumer insights of two or more research studies. This helps with recognizing which product or campaign will do better in the market, enabling brands with deeper and more accurate insights to take a call on the next course of action.
Agile Market Research is the Way Forward
We have been meandering through the research industry for some time now, and we know what it takes to design, develop, and execute a killer research study. Which is why we have developed an agile integrated research platform to address all your consumer research needs.
Quantitative and qualitative capabilities, AI-powered research assistance through facial coding, eye tracking, and voice AI, and an actionable consumer insights dashboard – all under one platform. Researchers and marketers can focus on other brand-building capabilities, while the platform takes care of consumer research.