If you follow our blog topics, you have seen a lot of information concerning the new paradigm of quick-hit market research. We believe, as a provider of marketing research services, it is important for us to change how we do business through consistently modifying the services we provide, and utilizing modern frameworks that keep the cost and time to results as low as possible. In addition to our responsibilities for offering modern ways to do research, it is also important for us to share with our clients how they can best benefit from changes in the marketing research industry and educate them on how their internal teams and stakeholders can more effectively plan their research activities as well.
It’s No Longer Status Quo
The traditional market research that has been around for 100 years is not dead. There are still very valid reasons to perform what we call “custom” market research, and they are not likely to completely go away, ever. We have found, however, that tolerance for long-form research is shrinking, both from the attention spans of respondents, and the research budgets of our clients, which have been divided up more finely between these activities and big data investments. We spend a good deal of time during survey development trying to find the balance between including enough questions to fulfill the research objectives (it still has to be actionable for you) and not including too many so validity doesn’t take a hit because the survey is too long.
On the client side, time to market is a real concern for many in the industries we serve. Decisions need to be made concerning product features as quickly as possible, but in a manner that ensures adequate feedback has been collected from prospective customers. Many companies today do as much work on their own as they can, and then use their research dollars on one large, expensive endeavor that is supposed to answer all of the questions at once. In addition to the potential respondent fatigue issues, there is always the potential that the internal work before the research was not properly balanced or focused. If you wait until further along in the process without outside feedback, your large research project may not be enough to right the ship. And what if your budget changes before you can do the research?
Change Your Feedback Loop
The major change that we are proposing to our clients is to engage respondents more often through smaller, bite-sized inquiries, and conduct research at multiple stages of their development process for specific purposes, rather than a single research effort later in the process. It’s guaranteed this shift will have an impact on the product development research planning process, and for some, this is a real challenge. Successful companies have developed solid and effective processes over the years, and some people hang their hats on those processes quite heavily.
What we are proposing is changing the research planning cycle to one that allows for more frequent dialog with customers; switching from a single, one-time, better-get-it-right research project approach to a series of smaller endeavors throughout the process. Instead of doing everything at once, it can be done in smaller bites.
Here are some suggestions for when quick-hit research is likely to benefit the process, and help the product development effort move along in a faster, more data driven manner:
- Initial market quantification: Quantify the need by knowing how many people are using the product, how it is being used, and why others aren’t they using it. Does it make sense to iterate on our current product, develop a new product, or even entertain development at all?
- High level pain points/feature needs: What is missing from your current product that could be changed to increase market share? Is there anything about the product that is keeping it from being used with more regularity or keeping users from recommending it?
- Concept test: Through discussions between marketing, product development and R&D, you have designed what you believe to be a next generation product. Now is the time to test the concept (or concepts) among users and prospective users to see how they feel. Are you meeting the need enough to increase use and sales? This step may require two times to the field, or may include a methodology like conjoint to come to a full understanding of what is driving choice.
- Pricing exercises: Now that you have configured your product, how much will users pay for it? What is the best range that maximizes return and does not leave any money on the table?
- Messaging test: What messages are most likely to resonate with current and prospective customers?
Though this is not an exhaustive list by any means, it gives you a good idea of the ways quick-hit research can be used to benefit your product development process.
The Benefits Outweigh the Change
Big changes in how planning is done are rarely without their challenges and detractors. Not everyone likes change. In this case, however, there are some intrinsic benefits that result from shifting to a tighter feedback loop:
- You will get more information at each phase/stage. Having more feedback throughout means that your internal development conversations are based on quantitative and qualitative user or prospect feedback, not just internal knowledge and a handful of KOL interviews.
- This increase in knowledge equates to better products in most cases. There are not as many trial-and-error steps that need refinement as you go. You already know what customers want – now how do you meet or exceed those needs?
- Research data quality tends to be better. Using the same rigor for sample development and respondent recruiting as in large studies, a shorter survey greatly increases the quality of response. If a respondent knows the survey will only take about 8 minutes and is focused on one or two key themes, they are much more likely to be engaged and provide thoughtful responses.
- Budgets can be used differently. Instead of stockpiling money, with some used now and some used in the next quarter as is done so often, you can spread out your research investment with less concern that your one, large study will get slashed to a point where it can no longer the answers required.
- Quick-hit research tends to be less expensive. Sample sizes can be set more strategically for each phase. Longer surveys are much more expensive from a sampling perspective as well. Studies that are focused on one key theme require less time to create, field and report than custom studies that need to be touched much more often and with more intensity.
Are You Ready?
At Actionable, we have a framework in place that can give you ideas of how to use this new format to your company’s advantage. We love to talk about research, whether there is a concrete study or not. We’re nerdy that way. Reach out to bounce ideas off us concerning your research process and how quick-hit research might be able to help you.