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Research Best Practices: Agile Research for Business Innovation

Agile market research is a BIG buzzword. This article explains what it is, like really, and lays out 3 ways that agile market research is useful in business innovation. 

Woman with a phone

We know, we know… You read this title and were probably like “Ugh, another post about being agile..” We get it; there are lots of industry experts talking about agile market research. But we promise you - this piece is different. 🙏 

First things first…

What is “agile”?

The agile movement comes from the software development world. It starts with gathering consumer feedback as early as possible by releasing a minimally viable product (MVP). So, agile means iteratively adapting or improving your product based on consumer feedback. The reality is that your product may not be as easy to update as software! That’s why in many industries (including market research), being agile means leveraging market research to test ideas early and iteratively optimize them before launch.

We have a nice post that shows how Upsiide helps brands get and stay agile. To show how it works, we used the royal family as an example (‘cuz we’re classy like that 💅). Click here to learn more.

How do you use agile market research to innovate?

We’ve helped many global brands up their innovation game by leveraging Upsiide in their agile market research approach. We discovered that when it comes to agility, a market research program supporting innovation should have these 3 steps: 

  1. Prioritize winning ideas earlier

  2. Optimize strong ideas using consumer feedback

  3. Validate potential for incrementality.  

If you’d rather watch a video than read an article, you’re in luck; our Customer Experience team created one. Click on the button below to watch it.

Prioritize winning ideas early

Testing ideas early is very important. Many companies begin gathering feedback from their consumers as late as the concept stage, i.e. when they already have chosen their ideas, without doing any preliminary tests. This is risky because it means that you might end up prioritizing ideas that won’t actually perform well in real life.

We recommend that you test many ideas in the early stages of innovation. This approach gives you a bit of freedom to employ “blue sky thinking” and encourages you to challenge existing assumptions. 

Ask your customers to react to different ideas - from conventional ones to wacky ones. You’ll be more likely to uncover disruptive ideas while providing valuable category insight.

But how are great ideas best identified? 

Our research has shown that having consumers trade-off between the ideas they’re interested in can help predict the in-market performance of an idea. Upsiide’s respondent experience captures people’s interest and commitment (that trade-off element) to generate an Idea Score - an absolute score calibrated to predict the sales in-market. (pretty neat, huh?)

For the people in the back - early-stage idea prioritization requires:

  • The ability to test a bunch of ideas quickly and without breaking the bank

  • A clear and easy method of idea prioritization, with a read on vulnerable, niche and broadly appealing ideas

Optimize strong ideas using consumer feedback

Okay, so you tested all of your ideas and found the most popular ones. Now, it’s time to improve those chosen ideas using consumer feedback. 

Traditional market research tests often use a single “pass/fail” measure against broad success criteria, e.g. purchase intent. 

But we recommend you test your ideas against several metrics beyond purchase intent. Some of the things that you can measure include:

  • What do people like or dislike about your idea?

  • Who would this idea be perfect for?

  • Would people recommend your idea to others?

Test all these things iteratively - i.e. repeat this process several times, with the goal of gaining more insight at each stage. By collecting diagnostic data and consumer feedback, you’ll be able to strengthen top ideas in a “test and learn” cycle. 

In this stage, ideas should be measured against custom criteria according to business goals, and ideas can be benchmarked against competitors.

Okay, to summarize: concept optimization requires:

  • Quick and cost-effective testing that promotes an iterative approach

  • The ability to test along customized dimensions that are reflective of the job the innovation was designed to do for the business

  • Data diagnostics and open-ended responses that allow for issues to be quickly identified and optimization opportunities to become clear

  • The potential to test concept components separately to optimize each concept element (e.g., name, claim, packaging, etc.) as required

Validate potential for incrementality

It’s one thing to have ideas that align with customer needs. But it’s a whole ‘nother deal when you know that those ideas will help you steal market share. 

Source of volume data is important as it will validate that your idea can increase the strength of your product portfolio (i.e. incrementality). 

Traditionally, this type of testing is costly and time-consuming. Luckily, Upsiide offers a Market Simulator which includes share of choice data as a standard offering, so innovators can see how to drive top-line growth by prioritizing truly incremental ideas.

At this stage, all you need to do is:

  • Confirm the source of volume for different innovations and move forward with the one that steals share from your competitor and cannibalizes your portfolio the least.

  • Get a sense of whether the innovation will be incremental to the category (i.e., represents a whitespace opportunity).

Before you leave, we’ve got one more thing for you!

If you read to the end of this article and thought “Wow, that was a lot.”, we get it - it is a lot. That’s why we have a nice little video made by Patrick and Melanie from our Customer Experience team. In it, they explain everything we just talked about, but in a nice visual presentation. Go get a cup of tea (or coffee), sit back and learn.