Customer feedback is the lifeblood of any company, and every marketing strategy. Without an up-to-the-minute understanding of what your customers think of your products or services, along with their iterations, you’re groping in the dark. You need to see the whole human perspective – what does each individual think, do, say and feel when it comes to your offering.
Today’s businesses must be fast-moving to survive, but developing anything at speed can be rife with risk – particularly if you don’t take your audience into account. With the right feedback at the right time, however, your chances of a successful new product or service implementation skyrocket exponentially.
Agile market research is therefore essential for driving growth – giving you the tools to know, within mere hours, whether something is hitting the mark before you invest any more time or money.
What is agile market research?
You might think that being agile is simply about speed, but it’s far more interesting than that. Agile market research is actually a methodology that’s based on an iterative development process. Through those iterations, companies can plan, test, and tweak their products or projects as they go – allowing them to move towards completion far more quickly, and with a greater degree of certainty in how they’ll be received in the wider market.
By combining new technology with established market research processes, consumer information can be collected and analysed at speed. It’s no longer necessary to wait for weeks on end to get a feel for how your target audience will respond to your brand. Instead, agile gives you the answers in moments – paving the way for insights to be acted upon during the creation stage, rather than following full deployment.
Ultimately, agile market research removes the guesswork – and that’s worth its weight in gold.
How technology allows for agile market research?
Advancements in technology have had a profound impact on the discipline of market research: brands can quickly get to the heart of what their customers think using faster, more easily accessible tools.
With automated research platforms at your disposal, the queries covered by traditional market research can be answered accurately, and without costly delays. Sampling can be easily automated, the historically lengthy process of fieldwork can be carried out in a matter of hours, and through the wonders of tech, you no longer need to wait for your analysis.
Speed is no longer a threat to decent research design: researchers aren’t facing a choice between time and quality; instead of an accelerated process undermining the validity of its findings, automated technology is helping to advance research methodologies in terms of sophistication and reliability.
Indeed, where agile market research is concerned, the advancements in tech have silenced past concerns around automated market research – allowing us to move forward into a new era of consumer feedback.
How can agile methods transform your approach to market research?
While market research has always been valuable, it hasn’t always been speedy, simple, or particularly cost-effective. Agile market research sets out to change all of that.
When companies are given the ability to test out their products or campaigns in advance of an official, market-wide launch, they’re effectively safeguarding their brand reputation, avoiding costly (and incredibly damaging) PR disasters, and reducing the risk of a poor reception when and where it matters.
Where in the past you may have carried out market research after fully developing and launching a new product, service, brand, or campaign, you can now test as you go, because testing is an essential part of agile market research. Your ideas and creations can be held up to scrutiny at every stage of the development process because new methods are faster, cheaper, and more easily accessible.
These methods also allow companies to iterate and improve based on the actual wants and needs of their target customers – leading to more informed decision-making, fewer wasted resources, and increased transparency at every turn. Most notably, an agile approach transforms market research by maximising return on investment, and minimising the sort of risky situations that could put your business in jeopardy.
Stages of agile market research
Agile market research is distinguished by its uniquely iterative nature. Rather than taking a traditional ‘waterfall’ approach (which starts with setting your end goals and moving through design, development, testing, deployment, and delivery), agile market research works in stages.
By starting small and working in ‘sprints’, agile allows for each stage to build and improve upon the one that went before it. Each sprint then has an integral role to play, as its outcome will determine the design of the sprint that follows it.
Understanding the different stages of an agile market research methodology is critical to its overall success: you need to know how each stage is different, and how they fit together as a whole.
So, what are the stages of agile market research?
- Explore: In the first sprint, you would identify your target market(s) and customer wants and needs, carry out an assessment of your competition, and decide on which technology will serve you best.
- Create: In the create stage, you’ll define your interaction with users, agree on the look and feel of the product, brand, or campaign, before testing – and ultimately, launching.
- Evaluate: The final sprint is where you carry out a performance benchmark to evaluate your success, analyse customer feedback, measure that all-important ROI, and implement any necessary steps to improvement.
Each stage serves a crucial purpose in the agile market research methodology, so understanding these differences is key.
When to use agile market research
While agile market research is an incredible step forward for customer feedback collection, it’s not suitable for every project. This is an important point to understand, as agile exists to make your life easier, not harder.
The projects that lend themselves most aptly to agile are those that have similar informational needs from project to project, because this makes automation easier, and with it, agility. In fact, situations that have historically evaded market research are rendered viable under the agile methodology: for instance, brands that may have avoided conceptual testing for fear of being slowed down can now collect consumer feedback with the utmost efficiency.
International organisations keen to streamline approaches across their locations would be well suited to agile market research, for its propensity to make insights more accessible, and easily shareable. The learnings shared across geographically disparate teams allow for the development of best practice, while an automated approach to gathering consumer insights widens the net of those who stand to benefit from these learnings.
Best practices for implementing an effective agile market research strategy
If you’re ready to adopt an agile market research strategy, you’re going to need a shift in mindset – because traditional waterfall, this is not. So, where do you start?
With a tight scope.
Start with precise scoping
As with any project, it’s crucial to start with your objectives – but with agile, these must be tightly focused and clearly defined. Because iterations are at the heart of an agile methodology, beginning with a precise scope is necessary to allow you to plot these iterations in terms of ‘sprints’, while making the content for each sprint entirely flexible. This flexibility is important, as things will change as you implement your learnings into each stage.
If you’re unable to clearly define your objectives, a traditional approach may serve you better.
Build an agile team
Agile project teams are all-important. So how do you create one to full effect? First up, agile teams work by playing to particular talents, so map out the strengths inherent in your team, and pair people with the work that suits their skills. Agile also does away with hierarchy: you need a project leader to steer the ship, but the remaining structure is flat. You should also aim for a maximum of 8-10 people in a team, otherwise it’s going to be hard to remain agile.
Get stakeholders on board
You’ll get the most out of an agile methodology if your internal stakeholders are agile, too. That means remaining closely involved with the project throughout – rather than commissioning research and disappearing until the results are in. Collaboration is key here: working together, the team should engage with internal stakeholders over the findings from each sprint – allowing everyone involved to absorb the learnings, and be well-enough informed to make critical decisions, quickly.
Agile market research examples
Right then, who’s using agile market research to best effect? It won’t surprise you to learn that some pretty big players are going all-out for agile, but here are a couple of notable examples:
- General Mills is well known for its breakfast cereals, and CEO Jeff Harmening believes a consumer-first approach to design is key in helping the company to carve out market share. By valuing speed over and above perfection, the brand employs an agile approach to get new products to market faster – incorporating consumer feedback early in the development stage to give people what they want.
- Online community Mozilla began its transition to agile back in 2016. By giving every employee access to the same tools and information, along with equal opportunity to participate in conversations, they were able to share in learnings across the board. As a company that values transparency, flexibility, openness, and participation, agile felt right at home.
How can Forsta help?
Implementing an agile market research strategy becomes a whole lot easier when you deploy the right software (that’s ours, by the way). Forsta is the world’s No.1 market research platform. And with our industry-leading market research survey software, you can venture into the very heart of consumer feedback – with speed, efficiency, and agility.
Automation is central to an agile approach to market research, and our cutting-edge platform has automation at its core.
We’ll help you to scope out what you want to investigate in the planning stage and create an agile market insight project to match. After that, it’s time to test and investigate. From online focus groups, video surveys, social media monitoring, on-the-ground investigations, and deep-dive desk research, we’ll leverage a bespoke mix of tools designed for the market research professional to get you answers. And then it’s time to analyse! We’ll dig deep in the data, and extract insights to inform your next iteration.
Fuss-free. Speedy. Agile. Now, doesn’t that sound lovely?
The agile acceleration of market research
Market research is all about supporting and facilitating necessary change, but the time has come for market research itself to undergo a transformation.
As competition grows, audiences evolve, and the world speeds up (somewhat relentlessly), the need for accelerated consumer insights has never been more apparent. Add to that the mounting pressure on budgets and timelines, and the future is set: agile market research is where it’s at, and it’s up to you to keep up.
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