When you’re developing a new product, it’s hard to overstate the importance of listening to and understanding the consumers in your market. And while every new product development strategy will include consumer research in some capacity, not every product or consumer insights team will have the time or resources to carry it out to the extent it’s needed. Which may be part of the problem.
Traditional market research has often involved a drawn-out process of surveys, interviews, and focus groups that can extend over several weeks or months before significant conclusions are reached. But companies can no longer afford to spend that time getting a new product on the shelf. The longer the research timeline, the closer your competitor is to beating you to the punch.
It’s exactly because of this hyper-competitive era that speed matters more than ever. Developing new products is an important differentiator among brands, but so is the rate at which it can be done. That means you need to get to a handful of quality, actionable insights quickly to build into your product and product launch strategy so you can secure a more competitive position in the market.
So how do you get to the valuable consumer insights you need with the resources and schedule constraints you currently have? One of the best ways is with an agile approach to consumer research.
Let’s explore the role of agile market research in new product development and how you can incorporate it into your strategy.
Why it’s still wise to be fast
The business world may be moving away from one social media company’s infamous mentality of “Move fast and break things” — if only to bring some much-needed social responsibility to product development and disruption — but there is still a hugely beneficial reason to “fail fast.”
That is, when something isn’t landing with your target consumers, you quickly iterate on your idea so that it will. By relying on consumer insights at each step of the development process, you can continually improve to get to a more successful end result.
This is especially useful in a time of great change, when consumer needs, expectations, and loyalties are shifting at every turn. As one expert says, “The minute we figure it out, what we need to measure has changed. For all these reasons, iteration instead of perfection is the more effective way to go.”
The goal behind the kind of iteration discussed here isn’t about breaking things in the market. Rather, it’s about adopting a flexible approach of continual refinement during the product development process to build a viable product that resonates with consumers and get it to market faster.
The combination of speed and flexibility shows your customers that you’ve got your finger on the pulse. You’re able to quickly identify, deeply understand, and fill the gaps in the market — all of which gives a huge boost to brand value and keeps you competitive.
How to use agile research in new product development strategy
Fortunately, speed and flexibility are two of the biggest premises of agile market research.
Over a period of days (as opposed to weeks or months) your agile research partner can run a quantitative and/or qualitative study — and sometimes both simultaneously — to figure out the shape and size of your target audience (who, what, when, how) and their deeper attitudes, emotions, and values.
With consumer feedback gleaned from online surveys and panels, plus behavioral and personality data, you can uncover likes, dislikes, behaviors, impressions, and product usage patterns to form a nuanced and multi-layered profile of your target audience. From there, you can hone in on the customer segment most likely to drive the success of your product in the market, and develop the features and accompanying campaigns that will most appeal to them.
If you’re wondering what’s so different about that vs. the results you get with traditional market research methodologies, here’s the key:
Because agile research works so well under tight timelines, you can get quick hits of quality consumer insights to guide and inform any phase of the product development process without losing pace or overburdening any one team.
For example, take a look at these five stages of product development and how agile market research fits in:
You can survey existing customers through an attitudes and usage (A&U) study to learn more about how your current products are perceived and to identify any new or revamped product ideas. Or you can open it up to consumers within your larger category to more broadly identify opportunities.
Once you’ve come up with a few product concepts to test, you can get consumers’ initial thoughts and impressions about each of them to help you narrow down to the best one(s) to build in the next phase.
With a product prototype in hand, including first attempts at branding and packaging, you can research how consumers feel about and use the prototype, including what works or doesn’t work for them. You can then apply the feedback to the next iteration, and so on, refining as often as you need to get to the right version for launch.
As part of your product launch checklist you can run storyboards, taglines, ads, and emails by consumers to settle on the best marketing and messaging. You can also include big data scans of your target audience to know how to reach them, such as whether they’re likely to see your ad on television or social media, or in the morning or late evening, for example.
In-market launch and testing
Your research doesn’t have to stop with the launch. You can take a consumer temperature reading in a sample market setting to see how the product is actually faring on the shelves or online, asking for specific feedback on in-store product placement, packaging, and/or branding to inform any necessary adjustments or improvements.
Researching smarter, not harder
As with many business processes and workflows today, those that have typically required a slower, manual effort are being shifted over to automation. And agile market research is part of that movement.
Many of the more time-consuming or tedious processes of market research can now be automated. Technology breezes through the busy work without sacrificing the human element at the heart of the market research discipline or getting in the way of researchers doing what they do best: a deep analysis of the insights.
Important to this effort is the use of big data and online methodologies. According to the latest data, 45% of market researchers use big data analytics today and 59% use online communities. In agile market research, these and other automated processes help to ensure quick, precise answers while maintaining the quality of insights.
This is critical in new product development strategy because it streamlines and informs the development process, and points to viable ideas in a much faster and more actionable way. Real consumer insights can be put to use immediately so that nothing has to be built based on guesswork or the competing priorities of different teams within your organization.
At the same time, product and consumer insights teams can focus on their roles in the product development process without worrying about how much time they’re spending (or not spending) on market research. The breadth and depth of the teams you currently have matters less since agile market research can fill in wherever you may be lacking. It allows you to get the analysis you need without the monumental investment you may have had to make in the past.
As you embark on new product development and innovation, consider how agile market research can play a role in your organization and the competitive advantage it can give you.
Interested in learning more about applying agile principles to market research? Watch this webinar to see how Nestlé is leveraging agile principles and research methodologies to accelerate time to market and empower their teams to make confident, consumer-driven decisions.