Agile market research came to life as an alternative to traditional research methods to keep up with rapid changes in the market. Now, it has become a trend. In a world where every organization strives to be more efficient — and thus successful, it was necessary to discover its pain points, as well as opportunities quickly. Although traditional market research can fill in all the gaps, it still requires more time and energy. After all, traditional research consists of a long set of predetermined processes until we get to the outcome — as opposed to agile market research.
What is agile market research?
Agile market research is a method that focuses less on producing the perfect outcome and more on discovering innovative solutions on the go.
To illustrate agility better:
Agile development is like finishing a ship while at sea. You first get the minimum you need to make it float: a hull and maybe a mast. Then, instead of finishing it before you launch, you go ahead and launch it and finish building it while it’s at sea. This way you have to focus on the most important things. (Source)
Just like everything else, agile has many definitions. Most of them circle around the words: fast, efficient, online, and time-saving. Although there are components of all of them in its term, they don’t define it precisely. However, two main components describe well what agile market research means.
1. Sprints instead of an overly defined project
As opposed to traditional market research, the agile research process is separated into small bids (sprints) — instead of one large chunk. This makes it easier to see what works, and what doesn’t and helps you act accordingly. Consequently, there is no need to wait for the project to finish to draw conclusions, as conclusions made throughout the process define the next step. During the sprints, the outcomes are constantly validated by the team members until the project finishes.
2. The iterative approach throughout the process
Traditional market research uses a linear approach — it only answers the questions that have been previously made. This means when a new finding pops up throughout the research, additional research has to be made. On the other side, agile market research uses those findings to navigate towards the best decision through an iterative approach. It makes it easier to catch errors without a need for changing the entire project.
Traditional (Waterfall) approach vs agile ppproach
To market a new product or a feature with the traditional approach, it can take months or even years. Just think about it. First, one has to plan the entire project and its requirements from start to finish. Next, they need to design it properly to make sure the project meets those requirements. Only after that, one can think about building the project and testing it to see how it works and what has to be fixed. Finally, once the flaws are recognized and improved, one can release the project.
While there is nothing wrong with the waterfall approach, it certainly brings a few challenges within itself. Considering the time necessary for finishing the project, who can guarantee that the product/service won’t be outdated by then, or even useless? No one. On the other side, the whole nature of the problem one is trying to figure out can change. What is the point of bringing the “perfect” solution if it’s not relevant anymore?
The agile approach focuses more on responding to never-ending market changes instead of strictly following the plan. It values collaboration and team interactions between all departments instead of predetermined requirements. Using the agile approach, it is easy to get the necessary feedback quickly without waiting for the project to end. The feedback will directly impact the next phase’s outcome.
Agile market research in practice - Amazon
Yes, Amazon is once again the leading example of the approach one should follow. It is well known that Amazon experimented with lots of different projects. However, not all were that successful. Amazon Destinations, Amazon Local, and Fire Phone are only a few of Amazon’s projects that didn’t quite work as expected.
If it wasn’t for their agile approach, the loss would be significantly higher than it was. Amazon tried out the ideas, made them work, tested them, and by listening to the feedback and iteration, they easily detected which ones they should focus on and which ones they should drop. The agile approach enables one to see a clearer picture more quickly and help them detect potential issues in time - and Amazon is well aware of that.
Agile market research is all about testing hypotheses, communication between team members and stakeholders, and iteration, according to Greenbook. There is a high emphasis on the “testing” part of the process. Agile market research allows one to define which methodology would work the best, helping one to discover what will work and what won’t. If there is a need for changing a hypothesis or research question, this approach makes it more manageable and thus more relevant. As Batukhan Taluy states in his article, what is a better way of practicing what you preach, than testing your own material? Well, it’s sure hard not to agree.
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