Applying Agile to Strategic Exploratory Research

Sep 17, 2019

The adoption of agile market research has continued to rise as the opportunity, relevancy, and benefits it has for consumer insights and marketing teams grows. In fact, as you’ll see, agile market research has the potential to impact many brands and categories who are facing unprecedented competition. 

GutCheck CEO Matt Warta recently appeared on Research Business Daily Report to talk about where agile market research is today and to share his thoughts about the value it brings, especially in the area of strategic exploratory research. 

Here’s a breakdown of Matt’s analysis.

Agile market research today

First, a working definition: Agile market research allows for quick, incremental movement toward the best decision. Said another way, it enables organizations to pivot on a dime and iterate on projects to get to a successful end point. And typically, it means the agile tools and services that are used have a good amount of speed, affordability, and flexibility. 

So where is agile market research right now?  

Though it’s made a lot of progress in the market research industry over the years, the best is yet to come, especially as companies apply agile principles and technologies to more strategic exploratory research, like attitudes and usage (A&U). It’s estimated that about 70% of the consumer insights market is using agile market research. And while there may be plenty of users who are just trying it out, many companies are actually using it in a systematic way.  

Much of the agile usage is in two primary areas: 1) product development, including concept testing, features, naming, pricing, and packaging, and 2) creative development, including ad testing, execution, and refinement.  

When comparing ESOMAR data over the last several years, it’s worth noting that the percentage of budgets that have gone to these two areas are flat to down. And yet, GutCheck’s own clients are doing more and more testing using agile market research. In fact, there’s a reason to believe more research is being done in these two areas now — not less.  

This is the promise of agile in action: If it can create more speed and affordability, organizations can iterate towards a great concept, product, or campaign, vs. just using confirmatory testing on the back end of a stage gate.  

So it isn’t that testing is less important than it was before. It’s that agile tools allow companies to do more of it with less money. 

How agile market research impacts strategic exploratory research

Interestingly, during the same four years, the allocation of budget going to strategic exploratory research, like A&U, has grown more than twofold.  

Why is this? 

It’s a pretty big sign of the hyper competitiveness among brands and in most categories, and the fact that many big brands are losing market share to smaller brands. For example, in the last five years in the food and beverage category, about $22 billion in sales have gone to firms that have less than $100 million in revenue. That represents all the annual growth in the category over that period of time. And this theme is playing out across multiple categories. 

The challenge for marketers, then, is knowing what to do about this.  

Fortunately, marketers have a mandate now to spend more time and money understanding the customer experience, identifying and understanding the customers they already have to retain them, and identifying the customers to acquire for growth. Analytics has become the top expense item for Chief Marketing Officers, and according to Gartner, a big driver of this is the need to more easily, quickly, and accurately identify and understand consumers. 

As a result, agile principles, frameworks, and automation are being applied to strategic exploratory research, with the nimbleness and affordability of the agile methodology helping to grow revenue and profit for brands. 

By applying agile principles to studies like habits & practicesattitudes & usageand shopper journeythat would historically cost close to six figures, take several months, and often lack actionability in the endan organization would be able to conduct more of this type of valuable strategic research with just a small fraction of the time and money they would have previously spent on a traditional study. 

Essentially, the same benefits agile market research brought to product and creative development are now being brought to strategic exploratory research. This will allow strategic exploratory research to become more frequent due to its speed, affordability, and iterative approach  all of which will have great impact on both the top and bottom line for companies. 

Check out the full video here and to see an example of an agile attitudes & usage studydownload this smart home device adoption report. You’ll learn about the demographics, barriers, and triggers of consumers interested in smart home technology for appliances, home management, and security.

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© 2019 GutCheck is a registered trademark of Brainyak, Inc. All rights reserved.