What is agile market research?

In market research, we see the word “agility” used frequently. But what do we really mean by it, and how has it benefitted modern business practices?
07 September 2021
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Heath Greenfield

SVP, Kantar Marketplace

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We hear a lot about “agile decision making” in business today, but what does that really mean within market research?

Thanks to digital technology, our everyday decisions are better informed, faster, and more spontaneous. Realize you need directions? A second later they are on your phone.

But the same is not always true of our business decisions. Business needs are far more varied and complex than getting directions to a specific address. As a result, sometimes business decision-making can feel like a throwback to the days before Google Maps or Waze, when a paper map and signposts were all that you had to navigate the world.

What is agile market research?

The good news is that digital technology, AI, and algorithms are taking on ever more complex business challenges, including market research. No longer do you have to wait weeks to know how your end consumer feels about your brand, ad, or new product; now you can get the answer in a matter of hours thanks to agile market research.

Agile market research is the process of gathering consumer feedback quickly and iteratively, applying technology at any point during the creation, development or launch of campaigns, products and other growth initiatives, so you can test, learn and make decisions with greater confidence. No second guessing, no delays – just relevant information, as and when you need it.

Automation enables market research agility

You can argue change has been a long time coming, but we have finally got to the point where a lot of questions previously answered by traditional market research now can be answered quickly and simply using automated research platforms like Kantar Marketplace. The primary benefit of automation is speed. And speed enables agility. Hours spent coding a questionnaire are reduced to minutes, sampling is automated, fieldwork can be completed in hours, and analysis is presented immediately after fieldwork is complete. When questions arise, the answers can be made available quickly and easily.

Projects best suited for agile market research

Of course, not every project lends itself to an agile approach. However, when information needs differ little from project to project, the potential for automation – and therefore the opportunity for agility – increases, even making market research viable in scenarios where it may have typically been out of reach in the past.

For example, take beverage brand Spindrift. The brand innovates regularly but historically shied away from formal concept testing research, primarily because it slowed them down. Using an agile market research approach, the brand was able to implement a more systematic approach to concept testing that worked with their rapid innovation timelines. As the Spindrift example illustrates, agile market research means you no longer need to build in lengthy periods of time for testing ideas or prototypes; instead, assume you can get fast consumer feedback exactly when you need it.

Agile market research platforms facilitate teamwork

One benefit of using an agile market research platform is the way it can make insights more accessible. When results from a series of similar projects can be shared with your teams around the globe, efficiency improves. Insights are democratized when others can learn what was done: what worked, and what did not. And that learning can then be used to inform future projects and help develop best practice specific to your brand and categories, thus reinforcing an agile approach to market research.

Global companies seeking to adopt a common approach across regions will find that implementation of best practice is far easier when that best practice is built into the system from the start. Particularly when a consumer insights professional is unavailable, a more standardized, automated approach means that anyone can directly benefit from consumer feedback, when they need it, and without risk of inaccurate or misleading results.

Starting out on your agile market research journey

Successfully adopting an agile market research approach requires a shift of mindset. The benefits of agile research are many but obtaining them does mean accepting many restrictions. And, as noted above, agility does require a mindset that recognizes the value of just-in-time feedback, a critical part of any agile development process.

If you think now is time to reap the benefits of a more agile market research process, then perhaps the best thing to do is pick a project and try it. After all, you can learn and iterate as you go.

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