With the introduction of online survey technology, the timelines behind market research projects sped up considerably. Instead of waiting weeks or even months after a purchase was made to get feedback, companies were able to email surveys just days or even hours after a customer acquired a new product or was exposed to marketing. Similarly, new concepts could be taken to the market and comprehensive testing completed in days.
As a result, marketers and executives can incorporate recent data into their decision process and react faster and more effectively to the market. But the market research world has experienced another dramatic shift, moving toward agile market research strategies that provide on-demand and “always on” feedback in real-time.
Defining Agile Market Research
The term agile in the business context emerged out of the software development world. The Agile Manifesto was published widely in 2001 and described an approach to collaboratively developing software in a cross-functional, integrative way. As the term implies, the emphasis of agile work is staying lean enough to harness speed without sacrificing quality. The end result is a software development process that’s been described as including “adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continuous improvement and rapid and flexible response to change.”
It’s easy to see how these same principles play a role in thinking about your company’s market research agenda. From developing a specific framework for how you manage research at the corporate level to guiding how a specific study is deployed, agile market research practices allow companies to connect with the market in real-time. The context for doing research is what Forbes’ Jennifer Rooney calls both “fast-paced and multichannel.” Against this backdrop, marketers have to conceptualize, design, deploy, analyze, and integrate findings into their offerings at a much faster rate than ever before.
Developing an Agile Approach to Market Research
Acknowledging the reality of our always-on world and internalizing this in a way that informs your marketing research are two different things. In fact, companies need to confront a variety of challenges in the broader marketing context: a steady stream of information, different devices, evolving technologies, an explosion of data, more customer touch points and brand interactions than ever before, and the idea that consumers can reach out to you 24/7. Different opportunities, challenges, and responsibilities emerge for companies that are taking a proactive approach to their research agendas.
Consider the very nature of the agile process: rapid prototyping leads to something that can be tested with the market. Feedback is swiftly collected, integrated, and the new version tested to get to a minimum viable product and then to make improvements on that baseline. Market research is embedded in the very DNA of the products that we produce and market.
The New Values of Agile Market Research
Agile approaches to market research require a new set of values when thinking about how to systematically plan research initiatives. Agile market research is:
Flexible: Instead of being bound by year-long research agendas, marketing teams need to stay flexible enough to respond to inspiration, market changes, and internal dynamics.
Scaled-down: Market research inquiry becomes a series of smaller explorations that occur more frequently, instead of large longitudinal studies. Often, studies build on each other by using the insights from one study to make changes and then test their effectiveness with the market.
Collaborative: Research takes insights and applies them across silos within the organization. Information is shared widely, and transparency is a key value.
Putting This to Work in Your Own Business
How agile are your overall business processes? For agile market research to succeed, it often starts with a corporate culture that values innovation, speed to market, and customer insights. There are a number of different steps you can take to ensure that your market research plans are agile. The following questions can help.
- Is market research an essential part of your product development efforts? Are you leveraging concept testing and iterative feedback from the market?
- Does your market research agenda build on a monthly schedule, rather than an annual one?
- What processes do you have in place for sharing market research feedback and integrating it throughout the organization?
- Have you developed the internal capabilities to support agile market research, including tools and technologies that give you access to an on-demand panel?
- Does your research plan incorporate strategic thinking about gathering data at different points in the customer experience, from quick polls on your website to real-time mobile feedback at the point of purchase?
The benefits of a fast, iterative approach to market research are significant. Agile market research allows you to better serve the market combat competitive forces by giving you the intelligence to pivot.
Are you ready to explore how the right market research technology can help you reach your business goals?