Agile Market Research: What It Takes to Win

agile researchHow can your brand win? The answer is simple and can save you from making costly mistakes that you will later regret: Agile Market Research.

CEOs think about winning every day. That’s because all businesses, regardless of industry, are in the business of winning. The formula for this, however, continually changes. Customers and competitors always move faster with time. Consumer trends and sentiments change rapidly – in some cases, overnight. Urgency matters. Key insights matter. In today’s business, market research must be about achieving targeted goals and being at the forefront of your industry.

For research to enable winning, it must shift its focus from methodology to impact, from generating mounds of data to informing timely actions and decisions that can be used in marketing strategies. Business decisions should consistently be insights-led. However, the unfortunate reality is that oftentimes they are not.

The Harvard Business Review recently discussed research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board involving nearly 800 marketers at Fortune 1000 companies. The study found that most marketers depend far too much on gut instinct, relying on data for just 11% of all customer-related decisions.

New Business Research Methods Should Not Be Misused as Old Ones

Companies that systematically couple learning faster with moving faster are the ones that make more informed decisions and win more often in the marketplace. Customers are spending an increasing amount of their time online and some segments are seemingly online all the time. With real-time access to our customers, why don’t we have a continuous stream of business-fueling insights at our disposal? Despite new ways of identifying and engaging our customers in meaningful conversation, we continue to conduct research the same way we did ten years ago.

Why is this? The answer is simple: businesses tend to use new tools the same way they use old ones – even highly innovative beneficial tools. The more successful the business the more inclined it is to recycle old practices. Clayton Christensen, a professor at the Harvard Business School, highlights a root cause of this behavior in the Innovator’s Dilemma:

“The very decision-making and resource-allocation processes that are key to the success of established companies are the very processes that reject disruptive technologies.”

Despite today’s high-quality, real-time and affordable research technologies such as on-demand surveys, on-demand communities and mobile studies, our industry as a whole has not reinvented its business models and processes to fully leverage these game-changing tools.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use New Business Research Methods

Reshaping a business model or process makes it seem as if the profitability of existing offers is being threatened, which deters change that clients could greatly benefit from. In the research industry, this inertia means that conducting marketing research still takes weeks and costs tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of dollars. It also leads clients to believe that timely, affordable insights are beyond their reach, when in reality they had the possibility of being attainable. This would be feasible if the industry made its most effective and efficient tools available by adapting its methods to leverage them. As things currently stand, the absence of regularly available insights drives businesses to continue the use of intuition, experience, and gut feel as substitutes. The reason for this is they seem like the only options that work in a world of short timeframes.

How Tropicana Mistook Their Gut Feeling for Research

The reliance on gut feel in the repackaging of Tropicana’s products in 2009 led to a 20% plunge in sales. Rather than basing the new design on research findings, the repackaging was inspired by other advertising and design gurus. The result was a major disaster. Within a few months the new design was recalled and sent back to the drawing board.

Tropicana packaging redesign fail

This could have been avoided by conducting a simple competitive analysis, which would have showed how confusing the repackaging was in comparison to its competitors in the orange juice isle. Existing customers could not find the product and prospective new purchasers mistook it for a generic brand. Don’t make the same mistake as Tropicana.

Want to know more about agile market research? Download our free e-book explaining the benefits of agile research and how it could save you from making costly mistakes.

Martin Payne is COO of GutCheck, which is changing the game in on-demand qualitative research by leveraging the Internet and their proprietary software to meaningfully engage specific consumers in real time.

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