Struggling to adjust to changes in consumer demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have turned to self-serve market research platforms to get fast feedback on their marketing initiatives. But market research platforms offer more than just speed and low cost. They offer the opportunity to put market research at the heart of a truly agile marketing process.
Disruption accelerates change
Disruption often proves to be the catalyst for change, and the COVID-19 pandemic has proved no exception. Witness the explosion in usage of online meeting platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams. And while in future we may return to a blend of working from home and from the office, it seems unlikely that things will return to the way they were. It seems likely that a hybrid model of working will be the future, because it offers a win-win for companies and employees.
Changes that are better and easier stick
A change like working from home sticks because the new behavior is an improvement on what came before – and it is easy to adopt, thanks to new tech platforms. And I think we are seeing something similar in market research, where the need for fast consumer feedback during the pandemic has accelerated the use of online market research platforms. Here we saw a 60% increase in usage of Kantar Marketplace, with over 400 clients using the platform in 2020. No longer a poor substitute for traditional research, automated market research platforms offer the benefits of speed, quality, and powerful meta-analysis across studies – something that was simply not available in the past.
Speed used to be the enemy of good research design
The usefulness and reliability of market research has always been a function of speed, scope, and cost. And all too often this meant research practitioners were forced to compromise. Increasing speed or scope drove up the cost of research if quality was to be maintained (an option open to few given the pressure on budgets). And speed potentially undermined reliability and confidence in results, even when the deadlines were achievable. All too often, however, tighter deadlines sidelined the opportunity to get feedback on important initiatives. The textbook, staged development of innovation, media planning and ad development has been lost to the ever-faster speed of business.
Breaking the compromise between cost and quality in market research
Thankfully, the compromise between quality and speed is now a thing of the past, as technology has allowed the automation of ever more sophisticated research methodologies. When a market research platform is designed to deliver quality research at speed, with intelligence and expertise built in, the conflict between speed and reliability disappears. The concerns voiced about automated market research just a few years ago have largely been addressed as the sophistication of tools has increased. This change opens the potential for an era of truly agile market research. A chance to put market research back in its rightful place in the marketing process.
Agile market research is more than just fast
Before we continue, let me clarify what I mean by “agile,” because it has become one of those business buzzwords, often used but not necessarily understood. Agile means far more than just being nimble or fast. Agile refers to an iterative development process by which teams design, test, and adapt their projects to bring them to completion quickly and successfully. And testing is quite central to the agile process. While agile software development requires testing and debugging code, marketing initiatives demand feedback from their intended audience. In marketing, the consumer is boss, whether they are the potential users of new product or people exposed to an ad.
Being agile requires the right feedback at the right time
Developing anything new, particularly at speed, is a risky process. An idea that seems great to the originators can fizzle given the reality of people's day-to-day lives. But the chances of success can improve dramatically if the right feedback is available at the relevant moment in the development process. Automated market research tools offer the chance to know within hours what resonates or not before further time and effort is committed to the project. And there is no compromise when it comes to the delivery of findings. Online dashboards make it easy to see what worked and what did not, while relevant benchmarks and diagnostics offer insights into how things might be improved.
Automated market research platforms have come of age. No more is there a compromise between quality and speed, and that opens up the potential for truly agile market research. Whether you choose to conduct the same development process as before but faster, or opt to include more early-stage ideas, or test a wider variety of prototypes or final executions, automation widens your options, gives more time for thought, and encourages a better, more agile, way of working.
Welcome to the era of agile market research.