The word ‘agile’ has been bandied around in business circles for some time now, but what does it mean for the marketing and research world? Agile research refers to a research approach where feedback is collected quickly and iteratively. In the world of big business, this often involves continuous data collection, AI and technology applications. For mid-tier businesses this could feel out of reach but it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of ways to gain customer insights at speed to help you get a quick read on what you’re doing well and what your customers need most from you.
The three core principals of agile research are:
Quick pieces of research can shape the smaller decisions which ladder up to give direction and clarity to bigger decisions. Talking to your market or even a segment of your market can reveal ideas that help solve the bigger puzzle for your brand and business.
Here are five top ways to get a quick read of your market.
1. Customer interviews
Five or six in-depth interviews with customers can quickly help brands understand their strengths and weaknesses. In-depth interviews do not have to be serious undertakings. They can be casual chats with customers to find out their opinions and gather feedback. It is surprising how useful they are at validating or quashing working hypotheses or assumptions made by business teams. Even if a hypothesis is invalidated, it is better to know it up front and early before more time is spent developing ideas or concepts of products. More often than not, they are a great way to capture some top insights.
2. Video diaries of user experience
Recruiting a small sample of users going about their daily lives and interacting with your brand, product or service can be an eye-opening experience. Video diaries are a good way to bridge the ‘say-do gap’ (people will often say they do a certain thing but what their actions are in reality is different) and reduce reliance on memory and recall, as we can get customers in the moment.
3. Community-powered research
Tap into the community and channels you already have to gain insight. This could be running a quick poll among customers on your social channels or mailing list. The added benefit of this is that the community will feel heard and consulted, which is a great way to build customer relationships. Engaging and seeking input from internal stakeholders as ‘super responders’ can also be invaluable especially those who are at the coal face interacting with customers all day every day.
Thinking nimbly about research is the name of the game. Putting short and simple customer satisfaction surveys or 5-star rating micro-surveys into your email signature is an easy way to collect data continuously. If running a ticketed event, seek the opportunity to ask 1-2 questions among attendees which can help answer a business or brand question.
5. Hit the streets
If you do not have an existing community or database, go to where your customers are! Whether it is the pub, netball courts, shopping centres, university or on public transport, chatting to people out and about is a great way to get the word on the street about a concept, service or product. Newcastle is well known as a very effective test market, where big brands like McDonald’s, KFC, Coke, Australia Post and Arnott’s have tested new concepts and product development. Fun fact: the Australian polymer bank note, driverless bus and lockout laws were all first tested in Newy!
Being agile and thinking outside the box when it comes to research will give you an evidence-based approach and insights that fuel your innovation without slowing you down. Not every project lends itself to an agile approach however, there are times where getting a ‘quick read’ via research in creative ways can be beneficial. Every piece of research is a step in the right direction to grow advocacy, loyalty and market share. The only crime is not consulting or engaging with your audience at all. It can be daunting to hold the mirror up but consider agile research as your crystal ball giving you a quick window into your future and the chance to plot the right course for long term success.
Greenbook. (n.d.). Agile market research. https://www.greenbook.org/mr/agile-research/
Handley, K., & Murphy, B. (2022). McDonald’s breakfasts, driverless buses among innovations launched in Newcastle. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-09-07/mcdonalds-breakfasts-driverless-buses-newcastle-innovations/101399644
Scott, P. (2007). If a product can make it here then it can make it anywhere. Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/business/small-business/if-a-product-can-make-it-here-then-it-can-make-it-anywhere-20090619-coai.html