There is a lot of talk these days about “agile” in market research, and with good reason. The agile approach has been extremely successful in software development. And with so much growth attributed to new apps, it’s no surprise that agile has made its way into different arenas. 

The agile approach has a lot of benefits. It is much more collaborative, focused on outcomes, and adaptable to new information. Agile facilitates flexibility and ensures that the outcome meets user requirements. I’m a big believer in agile and welcome the opportunity to apply its principles to market research projects. 

If your experience as a researcher is anything like mine, you have had that sinking feeling when presenting insights to senior stakeholders only to find that the information being shared isn’t hitting the mark, leaving more questions than answers. And this occurs weeks or months after a project is commissioned and even longer from when these same stakeholders identified the knowledge gaps they needed to fill. Agile, when applied well, can help to eliminate the mismatch between stakeholder needs and the insights market research teams deliver.

However, I do not think that the current application of agile in market research is optimal. When I see agile being applied to market research it is focused almost exclusively on the use of technology. The tech generally takes two forms. The first is the do-it-yourself platforms. The other involves the implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

These tools are not “agile.” They are designed for speed, which helps facilitate an agile approach. However, speed, in and of itself, is not necessarily agile. In many cases, these tools have limitations and constraints which make it challenging to iterate and flex based on new information, either learning gained during a project or evolving priorities from stakeholders. To be agile, the approach must be nimble enough to apply a wide range of methodologies to effectively meet stakeholder needs, while also obtaining feedback from those stakeholders along the way to ensure these needs are being met. 

To gain the benefits of an agile approach, market researchers need a broad set of tools along with the know-how and experience of when to optimally apply them. Survey capabilities, qualitative tools, secondary research, advanced analytics, all enabled by tech to ensure a fast turnaround, are necessary to answer the vast array of questions our stakeholders have. 

As market researchers gain more experience with an agile approach, I anticipate a shift from leaning heavily on tools to an approach more focused on iteration and quick feedback, leveraging multiple tools from a broad set. At ENGINE we are starting this journey. With a unique collection of primary and secondary research capabilities, qual and quant tools delivered by industry experts and backed by 60+ years of research expertise, we have a broad toolbox to draw from to operate in a truly agile fashion.  

We will share more about our journey to implement an agile approach to Market Research.  Stay tuned.

Written by David Albert, Managing Director of ENGINE Insights.

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