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Neil Harwood
23 March 2020

Agile Research while Business is (un)usual

One of the consequences of the Coronavirus restrictions is that many organisations are suddenly having to operate in new ways. For some it is inconvenient and overwhelming at best. However, at the same time change is always an opportunity to learn and do things better. In the context of consumer insights, companies are having to review their current approaches and consider new ones, such as agile research.
What exactly is agile research?
Agile research is about the fast testing of different concept elements at different phases. Testing is conducted online in a bitesize, step by step way. Below is an example based on the innovation pipeline for a tangible product.
Agile research supports rapid learning cycles and enables more focused decision making.
Companies are able to test all elements of their offerings within one week using an iterative approach. They obtain constant feedback directly from their customers to optimise their products during development.
Why is the agile approach relevant in the times of the times of change?
Here are some reasons why agile research approaches are more relevant to organisations during times of uncertainty and change:

  1. Moving faster while business is (un)usual
  2. More effective budget allocation in times of uncertainty
  3. It's online
  4. Limited situational bias
  5. Less is more (and better)
1. Moving faster while business is (unusual)
Companies are operating but in the context of business as (un)usual. They still have customers to serve and shareholder expectations to manage. In parallel consumer tastes and requirements continue to change especially during times of uncertainty. Consequently strategic and tactical decisions need to be made quickly requiring companies to move even faster.
2. More effective budget allocation in times of uncertainty
Budgets have already been allocated. Rather than spending it on expensive or complex research projects it is better to obtain consumer insights on a small scale. This allows companies to learn and accommodate the fast-changing environment while making informed decisions, thus minimising risk.
3. Online approaches are required
Many companies apply face-to-face methods such as focus groups and creative workshops within their innovation and marketing development. But these activities will be on hold for the foreseeable future until the health risk is eliminated

Online alternatives exist for almost all business questions that a company has. Agile research tools are ideal for concept testing. They obtain opinions and insights from consumers very quickly. Launching tests is very simple. It takes just 5 minutes and results are usually available within 24 hours in an easily digestible and shareable format.
4. Limited situational bias
With agile research users can decide when they launch their study. It is important that the results are available within a few hours in such uncertain times. Consumers usually require 2−3 days to get over an initial shock and adjust to their new circumstances before a sense of normality returns.

Right now may not be the best time to run larger complex projects like usage and attitude or ethnography studies because their objective is to understand consumers' usual behavioural patterns. Also the lead-time to obtain such results is usually relatively long. Whereas tactical concept testing is still appropriate due to the fast turnaround. Moreover, it is a particularly appropriate time to test any crisis related communication.
5. Less is More (and better)
Agile concept testing and frequent bitesize learning is a more time efficient approach in current circumstances. It enables more flexibility in terms of where, when and whom you research. Besides, it usually involves fewer internal stakeholders, which makes it a lot easier to manage projects in the current climate with so many working from home. Applying the described agile approach leads to better and more frequent tactical decision making.
The answer
Agile consumer insight approaches using online methodologies are the answer for companies during this unstable time. With fewer internal stakeholders and less complexity involved in the whole process, tactical decisions can be made faster. Best of all, this approach fuels creativity and results in more effective concepts being developed.

A period of uncertainty like this is still an important time to understand consumers. Change drives change and as a result of this turbulence consumers will have products and services fine tuned to their needs.
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