Don’t Be Afraid to Revisit Research When Something Goes Wrong

Frustrated man dealing with market research problems

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: the best-laid plans of mice and researchers often go awry. (That’s the quote, right?) No matter how much you try to strategize and scheme, there’s bound to be a hiccup or two along the way: every market researcher has had to deal with their fair share of unplanned questions. Heck, that’s one of the reasons why agile market research exists! But what happens when you’re suddenly faced with the questions you don’t want to ask—the ones that happen after something goes wrong? Here, we’ll explore a few unplanned complications in the product development process, and how agile research can help.

Stop, Breathe, Research

Scenario #1: Your manufacturer cannot make the design you planned for.

You’ve conducted your package testing and found a winning concept based on consumer insights. But when it’s time for the manufacturer to make your design a reality, you learn they have restrictions in place that will keep them from creating the package exactly how you’d like. They recommend a compromise that would get the job done, but sacrifices some key features your consumers are attracted to.

After all that hard work and your timeline looming, it might be tempting to just go with the manufacturer’s suggestion and make a decision right then and there. But if you don’t go back and ask your consumers, you could sabotage all the hard work you’ve done to get to this point. Take an agile approach and perform a quick qualitative test of your new design concept to ensure it will land with your target audience while getting the open-ended feedback needed to refine even further.

Scenario #2: Senior management throws you a curveball.

Your team is close to your product launch, and you’re feeling confident: you’ve conducted the research, passed the validation tests, and have started production. Suddenly, your boss has reservations: she just doesn’t think the name is the right fit for your product. Even with consumer feedback, she’s not convinced they understood the concept. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but you don’t want extra research to delay your launch either.

As frustrating as your manager’s hesitations may be, an agile approach that combines both qualitative and quantitative research will help you ease her fears while reinforcing your conviction—without putting a large a dent in your timeline. Conducting an online qualitative study to confirm consumer understanding of the product’s purpose, as well as practical and emotional associations made with the product, will help to refine language and ensure a connection. And following up with a quantitative prioritization of both old and newly refined product names will reveal whether an updated name really does land better.

Scenario #3: Your research results don’t actually answer your question.

When designed well and with purpose, market research can be hugely helpful in developing great products and effective marketing strategies. But nothing is worse than conducting all your research only to realize than the results don’t really inform the objectives you had in place: you’re left without any sense of direction for your next steps.

As interesting as research can be, it’s ultimately useless if your objectives, metrics, and questions aren’t aligned. Before writing off research all together, be sure to review your key questions and corresponding questionnaire or discussion guide to ensure proper alignment that garners the kind of feedback you want. While it may sound safe to just ask a ton of questions and get an equal ton of responses, adjusting your objectives to narrow the scope of your research questions will help to focus the resulting feedback.


When unexpected road blocks and curveballs throw a wrench in your plan, try to think of research as an investment, not an expense. Checking in with consumers is almost always worth the effort, and will only further refine and validate your concepts towards a winning product. And with agile methodologies, your investment won’t be the massive blow to your timeline or budget that you fear it might be. To learn more about how a major beauty brand combined agile quant and qual to uncover a packaging shortcoming and redesign for optimal appeal, read the case study below.

Download Case Study