There is an undeniable movement of clients wanting methods, tools and services that are more agile in nature. However, there is often a big disconnect between what clients are asking for in an agile solution and what suppliers are providing. Based on my experience building a next generation insights organization, I believe what clients are looking for when they are asking for an agile market research solution is a quick consumer read.
Before unpacking the quick consumer read, it is important to have a bit of context in terms of how we arrived here. My company, GutCheck, was started around five years ago to make the research process faster and more affordable through a SaaS platform.In 2012, we saw a set of sophisticated clients using us in a very quick, iterative way, which looked a lot like the agile software development process we use to develop our software.
The agile software development movement started in early 2001, and is now the development methodology in almost 80 percent of all software projects. The reasons are simple: agile software development is completed in quicker time frames, and with equal or greater quality. Given the similarities to research, GutCheck started to incorporate agile software development thinking in our research methodology and in our marketing. Our initial efforts were met with a collective scratching of heads by many, except by early adopters in the industry.
Fast-forward a few years and where is agile market research today?
- There are over 3 million hits when agile market research is searched on Google
- Many prominent vendors in the industry such as Millward Brown are creating and marketing agile tool kits
- End clients have developed Requests For Proposals (RFPs) to find agile suppliers.
SO WHY SO MUCH INTEREST?
Before answering this, let me introduce another software concept called the ‘happy path’. The happy path is a quality assurance test where a user uses software exactly in the way the designer thought they would use it; where there are no exceptions or errors; and where the outcome is known in advance. Now let’s apply this concept to a common process such as new product development. It is as if all the activities from ideation to validation are completed with no unforeseen questions being raised; there is clear alignment around the strongest opportunities; consumers perfectly understand the concepts; and the concepts crush the validation test…all on time and within budget.
Agile market research is going mainstream because the happy path is a mythical beast in the research world…often discussed, but never seen. A more realistic research process is littered with unplanned questions or inputs into the process. Again, leveraging the new product development process as an example, it is when concepts fail validation and we have no clue as to why. It is when a senior executive has some last minute, consumer oriented questions about the initiative or better yet, has their own idea of what a good concept is. It is when sales data falls short of the volumetric forecasting which was done, and again, we have little understanding as to why. When these anxiety-ridden events happen, clients are looking for something agile which gets them unstuck and moving forward…they are looking for a quick consumer read.
WHAT THE HELL IS A QUICK CONSUMER READ?
First, we came to this understanding through a lot of hard work. We retained a brand and messaging consultant who had in-depth, one-on-one interviews with over twenty-five our clients to understand how we should position ourselves going forward. While the 50-page report was full of great insights, there is one finding that is irrefutable.Clients want in their words, a quick consumer read, when their initiatives don’t follow the happy path.
With that, let’s dissect a quick consumer read:
- QUICK. It is about addressing a business question in a time frame, which doesn’t slow down the initiative it is intended to enable. This is typically measured in days, not weeks or months.
- CONSUMER. This has to be YOUR consumer, meeting the right demographic, usage, and even some attitudinal requirements. And not just in the US, but globally.
- READ. This requires flexible design; programming; the right execution; and analysis and reporting which provides the directional information needed to move things forward. Yes, this requires a services capability in most cases.
In terms of the depth of findings, the consumer read is meant to be directional in nature sitting somewhere between the 50-page report we received after three months of rigorous work by our consultant, and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) research where one receives some data and limited analytics on the back end.
With more and more clients moving toward timelier, affordable research solutions which are meant to provide directional feedback to keep initiatives moving forward, we believe Agile 2.0 (aka: the quick consumer read) will continue to gain prominence in the researcher’s armory.