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Agile market research: What is it and how to get started?

Published on September 6, 2022 by Akanksha Singh

‘Agile’ – a dominant phenomenon in every industry – has become synonymous with flexibility, connectivity and productivity. So, where did it all start? What is Agile market research and how is it making an impact? Let us find out.

In February 2001, 17 software developers formulated Agile Software, which changed the course of technology and revolutionised project management. Wherein, the Agile approach was defined as:

  • ‘Individuals and interactions over processes and tools,

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation,

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and,

  • Responding to change over following a plan’.

While originated for software development project management, these principles and values have gained wide traction across many verticals. The market research industry, unsurprisingly, is not untouched.

What is Agile market research?

Agile market research is a tactical approach to gathering consumer insights through an iterative process with experimentation and interaction at its core. It enables testing different ideas/campaigns before launch, inculcating stakeholders’ feedback/critique, and altering business practices in real time.

Furthermore, it allows replacing historical practices and methodologies with agile (quick) technologies/techniques and lends an opportunity to retrospect the different stages in the process, identify and remove roadblocks and improve return on investment (ROI).

Agile methodology, when implemented efficiently, helps an industry test, iterate and refine research quickly, gain actionable insights and make swift business decisions.

Market research: Traditional methods vs Agile approach

The standard workflow in traditional market research consists of several processes that come into play once the project kicks off (such as design, review, analysis and reporting). These processes need to be completed within an allocated time. Thus, the right output is generated before transitioning to the next step. However, this approach can consume considerable time and effort and reduce transparency among the stakeholders.

On the other hand, Agile proceeds in stages or ‘sprints’. It enables researchers to reiterate research questions, identify and incorporate different types of customer panel segments, if needed, and even change the research methodology, providing a scope to retrospect and reciprocate the process at any stage.

Also, Agile research is more data-centric, which makes it more consumer-oriented, allowing a researcher to adopt a more user-focused approach, keep the study manageable and involve stakeholders more frequently to obtain their invaluable feedback, and have more confidence in the overall findings.

Agile methodology also enables the effective management of thousands of capital investments through an iterative approach instead of spending the entire amount on one-shot research.

How does one adopt Agile market research?

The shift from traditional research methods to an agile approach could be overwhelming. So how should you get started? Let us dive deeper.

Step 1: Project audit and scoping

Researchers may want to first identify projects that would be a good fit for agile methods, which, typically based on a methodology, that can be be templatised, are repeatable and can be run in-house. Concept testing, product testing, van Westendorp Price sensitivity meter to name a few.

The next step would be to mindfully articulate a project’s objectives and define the scope for each stage or ‘sprint’. Since Agile is an iterative process, defining the precise goal of each sprint and insights one wants to gauge at each stage and throughout the process would considerably help retrospect and incorporate the learnings in the subsequent stage while keeping the team and stakeholders up to date and informed.

Step 2: Assembling an agile tech stack

The adoption of do-it-yourself (DIY) tools and software as a service in the market research industry has grown materially over the past few years. As per a survey conducted by Greenbook, the adoption of research technology has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 47% organisations planning to increase their use of DIY research tools.

The agile tech stack is making a mark in several processes including quant and qual, syndicated and behavioural data sources, panels and communities, automated research solutions, and data analytics and visualisation.

Based on the requirement(s), researchers can deploy these intuitive tools to collect, analyse and report data more efficiently.

Step 3: Building an Agile team

Barry Boehm, (a member of National Academy of Engineering), who is known for his many contributions in the field of software architecture and engineering, states, ‘Agile methods derive much of their agility by relying on the tacit knowledge embodied in the team, rather than writing the knowledge down in plans’.

Researchers must build a team by mapping the team members’ skills and strengths to project tasks and ensuring a high standard of alignment with the task in hand and related goal(s), transparency and accountability.

An agile team is generally nimble and small, containing approximately 8-10 members with a wide range of critical skills, such as strategy-setting, qualitative/quantitative research and analysis, and community moderation, among others. Appointing a project leader to overview the project, identify and eliminate obstacles and serve as a point to contact for the stakeholders would ensure transparency and help the project reach its full potential.

Step 4: Standardising internal processes

Now that the tech stack and team are in place, the next step is to standardise and document the research processes to maximise self-sufficiency in the team. These documents could include the standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on project type, with typical timelines and milestones, methodologies, research checklist, process insights and how-to-guide, key points of contact for major identified problems/obstacles and platforms to publish the insights and findings.

Step 5: Training and ensuring the organisation’s agility

The agile process should not just confine to projects but incorporated as a business discipline in an organisation. To scale the agile culture, researchers should encourage different departments to conduct their own research and see how the agile approach can benefit them and create an inter-departmental training programme. For instance, the insight team can help the marketing team conduct message testing.

A few ways this training can be imparted are internal newsletters, process whitepapers and internal shared platforms where documents can be added and stored. The training sessions can be conducted while onboarding new hires, recurring workshops, company town halls, encouraging employees through various rewards and recognition programmes, ‘Agile Champion’ for instance, or other means that suit the organisation’s structure and work culture. Researchers can then consolidate the feedback and FAQs to attain maximum visibility and ensure the availability of the resources.

Wrapping up

Agile market research uses a team’s expertise to shorten the decision cycle. Using the Agile approach, researchers can minimise time, capital and resource wastage and reduce risk situations by identifying obstacles at the right time, thereby maximising ROI.

Having said that, Agile market research is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It depends on project type, as for some projects, the traditional approach is more suitable. Thus, framing and effectively implementing agile strategies are critical to the success of an organisation.

How Acuity Knowledge Partners can help

At Acuity Knowledge Partners, we offer a mix of the latest technologies, optimum execution techniques, robust quality and extensive research. Leveraging our more than two decades of expertise in interactive survey scripting and complex functionalities such as conjoint analysis, TURF analysis, net promoter score and Van Westendorp price sensitivity meter, to name a few, we help our clients make more informed decisions and maximise ROI.

Please feel free to contact our domain experts for a strategy session to help identify and implement the most suitable agile strategies commensurate with your business requirements.


7 Steps to Building a Scalable Agile Research Program | GreenBook

Manifesto for Agile Software Development (agilemanifesto.org)

How agile market research drives growth and innovation | SurveyMonkey

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About the Author

Akanksha Singh is a Delivery Lead within the Survey Programming and Data Processing line of business at Acuity Knowledge Partners (Acuity). She holds a PGDM in Marketing and Communication and has over 8 years of experience in business development and content marketing for various industries including IT and ITES, Finance Tech, Healthcare Tech, Environmental services, and the Insight industry.

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