Challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for a more agile approach to market research, reflecting the importance of adaptability in an era of unprecedented change.
However, the groundwork for the current era of agile market research was laid decades ago, setting the stage for a transformation that has only accelerated over the past 15 months. Here’s how we got here.
The origins of agile
The concept of agile software development was introduced in the 1970s as an alternative to the then predominant ‘waterfall’ method, an assembly-line like model of software development where functionally specialized teams waited their turn to do their work, passing the resultant work-in-process along to the next specialized team in a rigid process that left little room for adaptation.
Agile development featured a set of practices and values that collectively allowed for a far more flexible development process, an inherent acknowledgment that assumptions made when a project is conceived were often wrong, and that circumstances often changed during the course of a project.
The notion of agile development has since spread to many other industries, including market research.
Why has this happened? Simply put, the world is changing far more quickly than ever before. The internet and smartphones are causing significant disruption in virtually every industry. Well capitalized Investors, notably venture capitalists and private equity firms are eager to make big bets that will challenge the status quo, often powered by new technologies. Put succinctly, the competitive landscape for virtually all companies is changing at a faster rate that it never has before.
Recently, the business climate created by the COVID-19 pandemic has enhanced the virtues of adaptability. Organizations needed to rethink almost everything about how they worked, how they sold, and how they engaged with customers. Brands, which had overwhelmingly shifted manufacturing to lower cost foreign markets, found that their production capabilities couldn’t adapt quickly enough. This left them without the capacity to manufacture important products like personal protective equipment, disinfectants, and surprisingly, toilet paper. The retailers and restaurants that gained ground during the peak of COVID-19 were those that most quickly and effectively pivoted to a new set of rules and a new paradigm for consumer expectations.
Market researchers discover their agile inner selves
The basic principles of modern market research were established in the pre-World War II era by pioneers like Arthur Nielsen. Market researchers have been aggressive early adopters of the latest and greatest technological capabilities, supporting the capture, storage, accessibility, and analysis of an always-growing body of consumer and media data. But market researchers were historically inclined to use that technology to drive ever greater efficiency in an effort to manage costs and speed up data turnaround times, following industrial-era norms.
More recently, though, market researchers have come to appreciate the virtues of agility, driven by a need to keep up with customers operating in an agile manner, by the emergence of disruptive technologies, and by the rise of competition outside the traditional market research space. Foursquare, for example, founded as a social networking company, has evolved into a data company. SurveyMonkey’s market capitalization now exceeds the value of NielsenIQ, the consumer products measurement firm started by Arthur C. Nielsen in 1923.
How we think about agility
At Premise, we’ve built our crowdsourced data aggregation capability with agility as its defining element. Our 2+ million global Contributors – people who collect data on behalf of our customers in exchange for payment – allow customers on-demand visibility into a wide variety of observational data points where they need it, when they need it.
For example, rather than collecting item display data from a static set of retail locations – a common practice that suits the needs of a static data collection team – we are able to vary the stores tracked each week, diving deeply into different regions as brands’ needs evolve.
Premise also operates with a credit-based subscription model for data aggregation, rather than selling on a project-by-project basis. With our credit model, clients aren’t forced to stick with the data aggregation approach that was envisioned at contract signing. Instead we have the opportunity to iterate to the best aggregation approach throughout a project. Financial incentives to Contributors can be modified, tasks can be redesigned, locations, even countries where data is collected, can shift as needed.
What this means to you
There is still an important place in the market research industry for data collected in a rigid, efficiency-first manner, without doubt.
Market share measurement for example requires a rigid, industrial approach that minimizes errors, decreases costs, and accelerates data delivery. Increasingly, though, market researchers need to take a hard look at their portfolio of data collection efforts and challenge themselves with the following question: At what cost are we achieving efficiency in our market research efforts?
Are you looking for a more agile market research solution that will help you collect the data that you need, when you need it, while allowing you to shift priorities quickly enough to keep up with ever nimbler competitors? Get in touch with us today.
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